As part of relaxed guidelines for schools released March 19, the CDC said physical barriers, such as plastic desk shields, were no longer necessary to slow the spread of the coronavirus in classrooms.
“This updated guidance from the CDC is the reason that we are removing desk shields as a mitigation protocol,” Richardson ISD Superintendent Jeannie Stone said in a March 25 video message. “Although teachers and staff will still have the option to use them for themselves, as recommended by the CDC. Some classrooms may continue to use desk shields for individual classes where there are special circumstances related to individual accommodations.”
The CDC recommendations also said students should maintain 3 feet of social distance in classrooms—a decrease from the CDC's original requirement of 6 feet—as long as mask requirements are still universally enforced in schools. Six feet of distance should, however, be maintained in common areas, such as auditoriums, or when masks cannot be worn, such as when eating or participating in activities that increase exhalations, such as exercise, according to the CDC.
The CDC still recommends adults—all teachers and staff—maintain 6 feet of social distance between students and other staff members.
RISD plans to follow those guidelines and will continue its universal mask requirement for students and staff while indoors, Stone said. The district began allowing in-person elementary school students to remove their masks during recess and outdoor physical education classes March 22.
Stone said the district’s revised desk shields protocol will go into effect April 5, but parents who wish to change their child’s learning environment can do so by contacting the student’s school by April 1.
“Parents—of course, you still have the choice to request that your student use a desk shield for the remainder of the year,” Stone said. “Simply contact your teacher or administrator, and they will support you and be happy to work with you and your student.”