Updated 1:06 PM
BOSTON (WBZ NewsRadio) — The Mass. Department of Elementary and Secondary Education said on Tuesday it is dropping the statewide school mask mandate for K-12 students at the end of February.
The mandate will lapse Feb. 28. Gov. Charlie Baker said the time has come to "give students and staff a sense of normalcy after dealing with enormous challenges over the past two years." He cited the state's high COVID vaccination rates and falling infections as reasons for letting the mandate expire.
DESE said schools could still choose to require masks in their districts, but that would be a choice for local officials.
The Department has extended the mask mandate three times since putting it in place at the beginning of the school year. The state says 68 schools have already requested to drop their mask mandates under the current rules, 42 of which have been approved. Under the current masking rules for the rest of the month, 80 percent of a school's students and staff need to be vaccinated to drop its mask mandate.
Gov. Baker said the state understands many students will keep wearing masks, and his administration fully supports them.
DESE Commissioner Jeff Riley said that kids would still need to wear masks on school buses, which are covered by a federal mask mandate.
WBZ's Carl Stevens (@CarlWBZ) has more: