CDC School Guidance May 2020

April 2, 2021
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Class During COVID?

The CDC updates its guidance for returning Americans to work & play during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Here are the highlights for kids going back to school.

Something To Consider

Reminder: CDC is not providing a legal directive – just recommendations.

CDC says its “considerations are meant to supplement—not replace” local laws and guidance.

CDC suggestions include disclaimers such as “when practical” and “if feasible” – we didn’t include these everywhere (redundancy!) but they’re used often.

Big Picture

“The more people a student or staff member interacts with, and the longer that interaction, the higher the risk of COVID-19 spread.”

CDC's May 19th "Considerations For Schools." This one sentence sums up a guiding principle for all the recommendations issued.

Basic Recommendations

  • Temperature & symptom checks daily.
  • Hand washing or sanitizing frequently.
  • Masks for everyone as much as possible.*

*CDC acknowledges this is difficult for younger students, and says masks should be worn when social distancing isn’t possible. Question: How does this apply to small groups of young students in a contained classroom? TBD.


  • Seating: Students should face forward – not facing each other – and sit separated if sharing tables.
  • Hallways: “One-way” routes in hallways should be implemented to keep children/staff from passing each other face-to-face.
  • New Design: Physical barriers or “sneeze guards” should be installed between bathroom sinks and in high-traffic areas.


Limit sharing – from books to balls to crayons to toys. Students should have their own assigned “gear” and not share.

Cohorts” – this is a key word found in the guidance. The CDC suggests limiting the widespread mixing of students and staff, and emphasizes keeping people in the same small groups (as a way to limit interactions, therefore preventing or slowing transmission of disease).

Playing & Eating

  • “Close communal use shared spaces such as dining halls and playgrounds with shared playground equipment if possible; otherwise, stagger use.”
  • Avoid spirit nights, assemblies, field trips and opt for virtual activities.
  • Eating: Serve meals in classrooms rather than cafeterias.
  • Sports: CDC advises to “minimize risk” with no specific guidance for different sports. More info. on our source page.

Key Word: Staggered

Staggered seating on buses.

Staggered pick-up and drop-off times.

Staggered schedules or rotating schedules (virtual school some days, in-school classes other days).

Staggered use of shared spaces, like playgrounds.

During the second week of May, lawmakers during a Senate hearing asked health officials, including CDC Director, for more guidance on getting kids back to school. In addition to the paramount goal of education, schools in America have a dramatic economic impact by providing childcare for working parents.

CDC guidance for schools: May 2020 – CLICK HERE

CDC Schools Decision Tool: May 2020 – CLICK HERE

CDC guidance for Youth Sports: May 2020 – CLICK HERE

by Jenna Lee,