Southern California 714-573-0900

Legal Updates

California Adopts CDC-Advised Physical Distancing Requirements in K-12 Schools

Posted by Sarita Oberly | Apr 06, 2021

On Saturday, March 20, 2021, the California Department of Public Health (“CDPH”) adopted the federal guidelines of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”) regarding physical distancing in K-12 schools.

Students in California classrooms can sit 3 feet apart instead of 6 under new guidelines adopted by the state. In following with the CDC recommendations, the physical distancing among adults and between adults and students will remain a recommended 6 feet.

The relaxed physical distancing guidelines must be done in conjunction with other preventative measures such as mandatory masks, proper ventilation, cleaning and disinfecting, symptom and exposure screening, and promoting healthy hand hygiene practices.  The CDPH suggests if there are doubts about mask adherence, to consider more robust physical distancing practices.  The CDPH continues to recommend maintaining 6 feet of distancing as much as possible during times when students or staff are not masked (e.g., due to eating or drinking).

Conformity with these relaxed physical distancing guidelines is likely to vary from district to district.   Local education leaders will have the final say on distancing in California and some larger school districts may plan to maintain the 6-foot-rule, in compliance with agreements reached with their teachers' unions.

The 3-foot-rule could allow more students to return to the classroom, based on available classroom space to allow for physical distancing, and help school districts to avoid staggered, hybrid schedules and return students to campus full time.  For further reading on the federal CDC guidelines, check out our prior legal update at

Should you have any questions about establishing distancing requirements within your District, please feel free to contact us.

About the Author

Sarita Oberly


Full Service. Statewide.

Parker and Covert LLP, through its Northern and Southern California offices, provides comprehensive legal representation to school districts, community colleges, and other educational clients in communities throughout the state of California.