With local classrooms in the Berkshires about to be filled with students once again, a debate on whether or not students need to be seated six feet apart in the classroom is raging across the country – and Massachusetts is among a handful of states that are at the heart of the debate.

U.S. guidelines have continued to say that say students should be kept 6 feet apart in schools, but that idea is now receiving new scrutiny from federal health experts, state governments and education officials that are working to return as many children as possible to the classroom.

The distancing guidelines have remained a major road block in returning students to the classroom, but now with new evidence that it may be safe to seat students closer together, some states including Massachusetts are allowing 3 feet of distance. Illinois is also allowing the distancing change-up, and Oregon is considering allowing it.

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This new scrutiny is taking place as State mandated deadlines are looming in Massachusetts to return elementary and middle school students to fully in-person learning. In the City of Pittsfield, school officials have confirmed that elementary and middle school students will return to classrooms full time next month. According to an update sent to the families of Pittsfield Public School students, elementary students will return to in-person learning full time on April 5th and middle school students on April 28th, as required by the state.

This new debate also comes as leaders of three Massachusetts teachers' unions are supporting emergency legislation filed by state lawmakers that would require the state's education commissioner to give school districts more time to prepare for the return of elementary school students to full-time, in-person lessons. According to a report in the Boston Globe, the Massachusetts Teachers Association, the American Federation of Teachers Massachusetts, and the Boston Teachers Union say the legislation would allow more school workers to get a vaccine before returning

What are your thoughts? Should local parents be concerned that their children are now allowed to be seated half the distance of the current U.S. guidelines? Or is there nothing to be concerned about?

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