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Returning from February break, many Maine students will no longer be required to wear masks

Trinity Cressey
Robert F. Bukaty
AP file
Seventh grader Trinity Cressey works on her computer at the Bruce M. Whittier Middle School, Friday, Jan. 29, 2021, in Poland, Maine.

As kids return to their classrooms after February break, many will no longer be required to wear masks indoors.

Several school districts — including those in Machias, Vassalboro and Chelsea — have announced a shift to mask-optional policies following the break.

Other districts are planning to reconsider their mask policies at school board meetings in the coming weeks.

The shift comes in the middle of an improving COVID-19 picture in the state. Eileen King, the executive director of the Maine School Superintendents Association, said districts are closely watching health data and recommendations from state and federal health officials. She said with more access to vaccination for younger students, and decreasing COVID hospitalization numbers, more school officials are considering making changes.

"It's a combination of all those scenarios that is encouraging superintendents to really look at how they can best move forward," King said.

In mid-February, Maine CDC Director Nirav Shah said that the agency will keep recommending masking in schools, but it planned to revisit that recommendation following February break and look at the latest COVID trends. The agency has also encouraged families to order free at-home COVID tests offered by the state, so they can test themselves before returning to the classroom.