Measurements of Protection

If 6 feet of social distance is the standard, then why is 3 feet OK at NHS?


Madalyn Tuning


Jamie Scriven and Madalyn Tuning

Six feet apart for social distancing is what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends in order to help control the spread of COVID-19. However, at Nixa Public Schools, 3 feet of distance is an acceptable amount of space for students to unmask, as long as they are not faceto-face. “The 3 feet social distancing allows us some flexibility, allowing kids to unmask for periods of time,” Nixa High School Principal Dr. David Kelly said. If students are at least 3 feet apart from others, and all facing the same direction, they can pull masks down, get some fresh air, and then pull them back up. Senior Tristin Bogner said he had fears of returning to school, and he was not ready to remove 3 feet of space. “You can’t just go from 6 feet, which is a defined number, to 3 feet,” Bogner said. Before school began for the year, NHS administration spoke with each department, addressing fears, concerns and recommendations on returning to school with the pandemic on edge. “We discussed fear because that’s important,” Kelly said. “We do everything we can to make sure that everybody — our students included — feel safe coming back to school.” The Christian County Health Department requires people to quarantine if they have been within 6 feet of a COVID-19 positive person for 15 minutes or more. “The quarantining thing is not easy for kids because the kid is stuck at home,” Kelly said. “Our teachers are
doing a good job of updating their Canvas pages, but it’s not the same as in-class instruction.” If the quarantine rules are for 6 feet of space or less, is 3 feet a safe distance at NHS? “From the … data that we’re tracking, it’s been a safe distance for us,” Kelly said. “I think overall, our teachers are supportive of it … but for the most part, our teachers at the high school are saying you have to have the mask on at all times. … Teachers are finding unique ways to get to 6 feet when possible. It’s just a hard distance to achieve.” Dr. Kevin Kopp, assistant superintendent, said 6 feet is the goal, but it is at times unattainable within the school’s day-to-day operations. “We believe our protocols are working. Students are doing a great job of wearing the masks,” Kopp said. “The frequent hand sanitizing, UVC disinfectant machines, and ways we are minimizing contact are all making a difference. The data is showing that the students going to quarantine due to school direct contacts are not contracting the virus, and that’s a good sign that what we are doing is working.” Although the school has been different, students still pull through. “Our students have done an awesome job of complying with our mask policy — having no issues with them,” Kelly said. Bogner has lived in Nixa his whole life. Going from hallways filled with friendly handshakes, to hallways of isolation reflects a declining quality of life to Bogner. “Things used to be a lot better from what I remember,” Bogner said. Kelly has personal experience with the coronavirus.
“We’ve had [COVID-19] in our family, and we were blessed that it was very minor for us,” Kelly said. He says it is important to keep vigilant on safety protocols. “We’re trying to get to 6 feet in as many situations as possible. … Our goal is to keep everybody as safe as possible and also have as normal as a school year as possible — and take precautions in the way that we do that,” he said. Social distancing at school is encouraged through serval options available to teachers: • Independent work can happen in a socially distanced way in the commons, or in the hallways. • Outside learning spaces are an option. • Students sometimes move to new seats within a classroom every 15 minutes, which means they won’t be seated near anyone else for longer than 15-minute increments. • Classes are on a rotating lunch schedule. They eat lunch in the classrooms on a periodic basis, which frees up space in the commons. • Some students are learning 100 percent virtually. • Masks are required when social distancing can’t be attained.