State Education Officials Extend Student Mask Requirement Through At Least Jan. 15

Education Commissioner Jeffrey Riley Feb. 26 at Nock-Molin Middle School in Newburyport. (Nicolaus Czarnecki/Boston Herald/Pool photograph.)

An indoor mask requirement for Massachusetts public schools remains in effect through the start of 2022.

Tuesday’s move marks the second time the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education has extended its universal masking policy. It was previously in place through at least Nov. 1

Commissioner Jeffrey C. Riley notified districts Tuesday the rule would be extended through at least Jan. 15, 2022. Education officials said they would “continue to evaluate and consider other criteria that could be used in the future to lift the mask requirement based on public health data.” Schools that choose to do so will remain able to submit paperwork to the state requesting to lift mask mandates for vaccinated individuals if they demonstrate a vaccination rate of at least 80 percent among students and staff.

Education Secretary James Peyser said the extension “will allow time for the elementary school population to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.” Pending federal expansion of vaccine eligibility to kids younger than 12, state health officials said last week that they expect 360,000 doses of the pediatric vaccine to arrive here between Oct. 28 and Nov. 5.

“Masks remain a simple and effective measure to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and keep students in school safely,” said Riley, who has touted the state’s COVID-19 testing programs for schools as another way to help kids remain in the classroom. During the week from Oct. 14-20, school districts reported a total of 1,804 new positive COVID-19 cases among students and 350 among staff. The positivity rate for the state’s school pooled testing program was.91 percent over the week from Oct. 11-17.

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