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Message from Dr. James re: CDC Guidance on Social Distancing

March 22, 2021 - Message from Dr. James re: CDC Guidance on Social Distancing

The ongoing rumors about inevitable changes in Centers for Disease Control social distancing guidance for schools culminated on Friday with revised CDC guidance.


News headlines report that the CDC recommends “at least” 3 feet of distance between individuals instead of the prior 6 foot distance recommendation. These headlines have led to immediate community pressure from some to get all students full-time, in-person as soon as possible. Yet, as is often the case, there is more to this story than the headlines. 

Further, this does not mean anything has changed for our schools for now. The State Department of Health must issue new guidance before any changes may occur.   Typically, NYSDOH has been at least two weeks behind the CDC in making adjustments to align with national standards. As I have often stated, we must abide by the NYSDOH guidance. 

However, here I will try to break down some of the nuances from the CDC guidance given the fact that headlines haven't told the whole story. Below we will reference transmission zone colors a few times and here is a map for reference. It is important to note, that as of today, most counties in the state are in a red zone, we have no blue zone counties and only one yellow zone county. At this time all of Long Island including Commack are in a red zone. See below for more information.


From the CDC Guidance Middle and High School: 

  • If in blue or yellow zone, then 3 feet between students in classroom regardless of transmission zone.

  • If in orange zone, 3 feet of distance between students in classroom with cohorts recommended.

  • If in red zone, 6 feet, unless cohorts are used, in which case 3 feet.  In Commack, if we return all students we cannot provide cohorts. 


Also, from the CDC - Barriers: The guidance removes recommendations for the use of barriers. That could cause challenges for schools that have less than 6 feet of distance because they have been utilizing barriers.  This would pertain to districts on Long Island that have returned classes less than six (6) feet apart with barriers (although to date NYSDOH has not identified sneeze guards as “barriers”). 


Testing: The guidance recommends testing students once a week if in any zone other than blue (random sampling of 10% of students/pool testing)


These points represent some key changes within the guidance but are not a complete summary. Again, we await revised guidance from the New York State Department of Health before we can affect any changes. As you know, from last week's email, we are poised to make adjustments should they be permissible and logical for students and the community. Please see tonight’s video and be sure to complete the upcoming survey as it will help inform the decision making process.


I, and the BOE, will continue to advocate to follow the science and the health experts and will keep you informed as anticipated adjustments are released by the Department of Health.

March 19, 2021 - New Guidance from the CDC

As you may have heard, the CDC has issued new guidance on social distancing in classrooms. Please be aware that school districts in New York MUST follow guidance from the New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH) not the CDC. What typically occurs when the CDC releases new information is that the NYSDOH uses that information to inform the development of new school guidelines for New York. Therefore, at this time, we are waiting for the NYSDOH to determine whether they will release new guidelines for schools.   However, in the event of new guidance from the NYSDOH, we want to be prepared and are moving forward with our plans to determine whether or not the parents of middle and high school students want the District to return to full time, “brick and mortar,” every day in school if the NYSDOH allows such. Please know that allowing schools to shrink the social distancing guidelines does not “mandate” that they do so; we can be further apart, just not closer.  However, 1) we fully intend to return to full-time “brick and mortar” school in the fall of 2021 as long as the NYSDOH guidance allows such; and 2) we will be sending a survey to middle and high school parents on March 23, 2021, to determine the “will” of our parents in returning to fulltime “brick and mortar” school this year if the NYSDOH allows the shrinking of social distancing in classrooms. Below is the timeline set forth for the next several weeks in an effort to be prepared if the NYSDOH makes changes to the guidance.  Please know, we must receive new guidance from the NYSDOH, no matter what the survey says, before we are able to consider returning to full-time, “brick and mortar” school.




March 22, 2021

Video explaining survey process will be released

March 23, 2021

Survey will be released to secondary parents

March 23 – April 6, 2021

Survey opens for parents to complete (please note, March 29 – April 5, 2021 schools are closed for Spring Recess)

April 6, 2021

Survey closes at 12 noon sharp

April 8, 2021

IF NYSDOH issues new guidance, District will announce survey results and plans moving forward

April 12-16, 2021

If necessary, District will begin releasing student schedules and new bus passes

April 16, 2021


April 19, 2021


April 19 – 21

IF NYSDOH has issued new guidance AND the parents support transitioning, we will Transition to Fulltime, “Brick and Mortar” every day in our secondary schools


  • Re: Moving from six (6) feet to three (3) feet. 
    • Please be aware that at this time the district must adhere to the six (6) foot desk separation in classrooms.  Although the NYSDOH may change this minimum distance, much like with the six (6) feet, we will not be able to have desks closer than any new distance set by the NYSDOH, but we could have them further.  
  • The transition date was selected given the natural end of the marking period for students so that we do not disrupt the classwork and assessment process that occurs at the end of marking periods.
  • Please be aware that any change to our current secondary model is completely reliant on new NYSDOH guidelines and support from the parents via the survey that will be released on March 23, 2021.
  • At this time, we are not considering modifying the Kindergarten to Grade 5 Commack Classroom Model. However, we will utilize any other changes in guidance in an effort to further increase student movement, physical education, recess, access to the cafeteria, etc.
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