AUSTIN, Texas - Austin parents and teachers are not convinced schools can safely cut social distancing requirements from six feet down to three feet.
On Tuesday, following updated CDC guidance, Austin's interim health authority Dr. Mark Escott said it's possible to safely decrease distancing recommendations within schools when cases aren't spiking.
"We are working with our schools group to update our guidance. We will keep six feet of distancing in stage five, because of the increased risk of transmission, but it’s likely we will transition the other distancing recommendations for other stages down to three feet within schools," Escott said.
"I honestly think it's time to look at that, but I think that each school should be given the autonomy for their administration to determine what's best for their campus," said Annie Dragoo, theater teacher at Austin High School.
Escott said he will speak with Austin ISD about updated social distancing guidelines next week. Although, the recommendations won't be changing in any other locations.
"When we think about classrooms, particularly classrooms under COVID guidance, we’ve got desks facing in the same direction, we’ve got protocols in place, that’s a much different situation than being face-to-face, where individuals are more likely to be exposed, rather than facing the same direction," Escott said.
"I cannot think of one classroom at my school where everybody faces the same way the entire time. It just doesn't happen and, so, I think you've got to take that argument off the table," said Dragoo.
Even AISD officials said they aren't ready to make the changes.
In a statement, an AISD spokesperson wrote in part, "At this time Austin ISD will continue to use six feet social distancing guidelines at all the campuses."
Parents and teachers seem to agree there's no reason to rush the changes right now.
"I think there's value in slow and steady towards normal and we've only got a few weeks left in the school year. I'm not sure what you gain by reducing it, officially, to three feet and you have a chance to lose a lot," said Sharyn Vane, a parent of two AISD high school students.
Parents said they would feel more comfortable updating guidance once all students are eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine.