MASS. - The mask requirement for all public school students, teachers and staff members is extended until at least November 1.

The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) made the announcement on Monday.

 “The best interest of students and staff as they return safely to full-time, in-person instruction this fall is at the forefront of my decision. Wearing masks is an important additional measure to keep students in school safely at this time," DESE Education Commissioner, Jeffrey Riley, said. “As health conditions evolve, we will continue to work with medical experts to find masking offramps for our youngest students who are not yet eligible for vaccines.”

Middle and high schools with 80% of their students and staff vaccinated will have the option to lift the mandate by submitting an attestation form to the department on Oct. 15. Once the verification process is completed, vaccinated students and staff will no longer be required to wear masks at those schools.

“Local school districts will have the option to remove masks for middle and high schools that reach this high vaccination rate among students and staff. We know some communities will want to submit verification quickly, and other communities might choose to continue their mask policies for now,” said Education Secretary James Peyser. “This policy allows communities to make the decision at the local level.” 

Last month, the Elementary and Secondary Education Board voted to give Riley the authority to implement a mask mandate for public schools through at least Oct. 1. At the time, Riley said he would revise the mandate if public health data warranted it.

Under the mandate extension and verification process, unvaccinated students and staff are still required to wear masks. The mandate includes exceptions for students who cannot wear a mask due to medical conditions or behavioral needs.