Schools

Massachusetts extends school mask mandate through February

"The mask requirement remains an important measure to keep students, teachers and staff in school safely at this time."

Kris Kellenberger teaching her art class at Hopkinton High School. David L. Ryan / The Boston Globe

Gov. Charlie Baker’s administration is extending its indoor mask requirement for all K-12 public schools in Massachusetts through the end of February, as the omicron variant of COVID-19 continues to spread across the state.

The state’s Department of Elementary and Secondary Education announced Monday morning that Commissioner Jeff Riley had notified districts that he would extend the mask requirement through Feb. 28, though schools with at least 80 percent of students and staff vaccinated are still allowed to lift the mandate.

The announcement comes less than a week before the mandate was scheduled to expire Saturday, and as many short-staffed schools struggle to stay open due to the unprecedented infection rates fueled by the now-dominant omicron variant.

Advertisement:

“The mask requirement remains an important measure to keep students, teachers and staff in school safely at this time,” DESE officials said in press release Monday morning, adding that the department will continue to evaluate public heath data with medical experts and state health officials.

The extended mandate continues to let schools that have reached the 80 percent vaccination rate threshold apply for an exemption to lift the indoor mask requirement for vaccinated individuals (though unvaccinated students and staff still have to wear masks indoors in those schools).

For the majority of schools still adhering to the universal indoor mask mandate, the following requirements remain in effect through at least February.

  • Public school students ages 5 and older in all grades and staff are required to wear masks indoors in schools, except when eating, drinking or during mask breaks.
  • All visitors are also expected to wear a mask in school buildings, regardless of vaccination status.
  • Masks are not required outdoors.
  • It is strongly recommended that students younger than 5 also wear a mask in school, which is consistent with the Department of Early Education and Care’s mask policy for child care providers.
  • Students and staff who cannot wear a mask for medical reasons and students who cannot wear a mask for behavioral reasons are exempt from the requirement.
  • Masks are required for any sports-related activity for student-athletes and coaches when indoors, in alignment with guidance provided by the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association (MIAA).
  • Masks should be provided by the student/family, but disposable masks should be made available by the school for students who need them.
  • By federal public health order, all students and staff are required to wear a mask on school buses.
Jump To Comments

Conversation

This discussion has ended. Please join elsewhere on Boston.com