MASS. - Gov. Charlie Baker and Department of Elementary and Secondary Education Commissioner Jeffrey Riley announced the state will drop mask mandates in K-12 public schools effective Feb. 28.

The mandate would have expired on Feb. 28. The mandate was first issued in August and was extended three times. 

“With Massachusetts a national leader in vaccinating kids, combined with our robust testing programs, it is time to lift the mask mandate in schools and give students and staff a sense of normalcy after dealing with enormous challenges over the past two years,” Gov. Charlie Baker said Wednesday. “We have all the tools to keep schools safe as we move into dealing with the next phase of managing COVID.”

Baker said Massachusetts currently ranks second in the nation with the highest share of kids vaccinated.

DESE and the Massachusetts Department of Public Health are recommending students and faculty wear masks in certain scenarios, including testing positive for COVID-19 while at school using the Test and Stay program.  

Masking continues to be required on all school buses, per federal order.

Individual school districts, like Worcester Public Schools, can decide if they want to keep mask mandates in place past Feb. 28. The Worcester School Committee meets next on Feb. 17. The Worcester Board of Health voted earlier this week they recommend keeping the mandate in place at least into early March until the board meets again to review public health data from DESE. 

According to DESE, they decided to drop the mask mandate after consulting with infectious disease physicians, the DPH, and other medical experts.

“We understand many students will continue to wear masks going forward for a number of reasons and we fully support those individual decisions,” Gov. Baker said. “And we would urge everyone in K-12 education to do the same.”

The Department of Early Education and Care will also lift the mask requirements for all licensed child care providers effective Feb. 28. Childcare programs will be allowed to develop their own policies. 

In Massachusetts, 52% of all individuals who are fully vaccinated have received a booster dose, compared to 42% of the national population.

The at-home testing program launched last month for students and educators, as well as the Test and Stay programs in schools, will remain in place.

Several other states, including Connecticut, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Delaware, have recently rescinded their school mask requirements.