By CBSBoston.com Staff

BOSTON (CBS) — A mask mandate for Massachusetts K-12 public schools will remain in place through at least the end of February.

Department of Elementary and Secondary Education Commissioner Jeffrey Riley said Monday that he will extend the mask requirement again until February 28, 2022. It was set to expire at the end of the week.

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The announcement comes as COVID-19 cases in Massachusetts have surged due to the highly contagious Omicron variant.

“The mask requirement remains an important measure to keep students, teachers and staff in school safely at this time,” DESE said in a statement. “The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, in consultation with medical experts and state health officials, will continue to evaluate public health data.”

DESE said schools can still choose to lift the mask mandate if at least 80% of students and staff are vaccinated, but it’s a decision that would have to be made with local health officials.

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Click here for a town-by-town map of school-aged children vaccination data.

In August, the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education gave Riley the authority to put a universal school mask mandate in place.

Under the mandate, all students 5 and older and staff are required to mask up except when eating or drinking, or during “mask breaks.” Students who can’t put on a mask due to behavioral reasons are exempt.

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Masks also continue to be required for student athletes and coaches when playing indoor sports.

CBSBoston.com Staff