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DESE extends mask requirement in schools

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  Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) Commissioner Jeffrey Riley recently notified school districts in the Commonwealth that he will again extend the mask requirement in all K-12 public schools through February 28. The mask requirement remains an important measure to keep students, teachers and staff in school safely. DESE, in consultation with medical experts and state health officials, will continue to evaluate public health data.

  School officials will continue to be able to lift the mask requirement if they can demonstrate that at least 80 percent of all students and staff in a school building are vaccinated. Lifting the mask requirement through DESE’s vaccination threshold policy is a local decision made by school and community leaders in consultation with local health officials.Also exempt from the mask requirement are students and staff who cannot wear a mask for medical reasons and students who cannot wear a mask for behavioral reasons.

  The following mask requirements will remain in effect:

  • Public school students ages five 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 five also wear a mask in school, which is consistent with the Department of Early Education and Care’s mask policy for child care providers.

  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. The regulations also include that 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.

  In August 2021, the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education gave the commissioner the authority to require masks for public school staff and students (ages five and older) in all grades through at least October 1, 2021. The commissioner said he would revise the requirement as warranted by public health data.

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