The Baker administration on Feb. 9 announced that the statewide mask mandate for K-12 schools will be lifted on Feb. 28, the date it was set to expire.
Gov. Charlie Baker said at a press conference on Wednesday morning that guidance has been issued by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) for schools “for using masks in specific scenarios.”
He continued, “our administration’s pulled out every stop to keep kids in classrooms where they can learn safely.” Baker spoke about state efforts with regards to vaccination clinics at schools and the school testing programs, both of which he said will continue moving forward.
“We’ve learned a lot about how safe schools are and about how to keep kids in class learning over the course of this pandemic,” Baker said, adding that “young people are at very low risk of getting seriously ill from COVID,” as are individuals who are fully vaccinated.
Baker also said that Massachusetts is second in the country “for highest share of kids fully vaccinated at this point in time,” and that “school settings are very rarely sources of COVID transmission.”
With the number of resources available to students, families, and teachers at this point in the pandemic, Baker said that “almost every single COVID restriction or mandate at the state level” has now been able to be lifted. He said it is “time to give our kids a sense of normalcy.”
Baker addressed the fact that many students and teachers will continue to choose to wear masks. “We fully support those individual decisions,” he said, and “urge everyone in K-12 education to do the same.”
DESE Commissioner Jeff Riley said that the mask mandate will be lifted in every school district on Feb. 28, “unless a school district decides to establish a local requirement.”
He also said that “this decision was made in consultation with infectious disease physicians, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, and other medical experts.”
According to Riley, 82 percent of kids ages 16-19 have gotten at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine statewide.
“Please make sure to create a supportive environment that respects everyone’s choice to do what is most appropriate and comfortable for them,” Riley said.