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WEA President Larry Delaney's response to new CDC distancing requirements

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WEA President Larry Delaney released the following statement regarding the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's new recommendation March 19, relaxing its social distancing guidelines for schools, allowing students to now sit 3 feet apart in classrooms.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, WEA members have used our voices at the bargaining table with school districts and with lawmakers in Olympia to advocate for the safest, most equitable learning possible for students, staff, families and the community.

In light of Gov. Inslee's proclamation this week, local unions are working with districts to ensure families have equitable access to high-quality remote or safe in-person learning and mental health services. Districts must elevate the voices of BIPOC families and other disproportionately impacted groups to ensure learning transitions meet their needs.

Leaders continue to point to a mental health crisis among students yet have failed to sustainably fund mental health supports in schools. With the 6-foot spacing requirement, classes are finally sized right for students to get more of the learning and supports they need. Before adding additional students under the 3-foot spacing revision, local unions and districts must collaborate to ensure we continue to provide the same ratio of educational support (including mental health services) per student as we did with the 6-foot spacing.

The CDC's new guidance recommending 3 feet of distancing instead of 6 for elementary schools raises justifiable questions about the science behind the change. We are all too aware that many interests have been pushing for faster school reopening; it's critical that the CDC transparently show this is rigorously science-based.

The new CDC guidance has critical details including that educators must maintain 6-feet distance from students and that schools must follow all established health and safety requirements, including masking and ventilation. Districts must fully implement these guidelines to keep communities safe.

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