Jim Chasse, superintendent of Hermon schools, is shown last August. The town's schools will drop their mask requirement on March 14. Credit: David Marino Jr. / BDN

Hermon schools will make masking optional beginning March 14, two weeks after students return from their February break, according to Superintendent Jim Chasse.

Hermon is the first Bangor-area school department to make masking optional for students as COVID case loads and hospitalizations have declined following a winter surge.

But it’s part of a growing number of schools in Maine and elsewhere that are dropping mask requirements two years into the pandemic. In the Oakland area, Regional School Unit 18 is dropping its mask requirement after this week’s February break, and Maine’s Catholic schools plan to drop their mandate on March 7.

A number of other school systems plan to reconsider their mask requirements in the coming weeks. Regional School Unit 22 will revisit the same masking-optional policy if COVID cases continue to decline, Superintendent Regan Nickels told the Hampden-area school board earlier this month. And the Yarmouth School Department will consider dropping its mask mandate at a Feb. 28 school committee meeting.

School superintendents met with state health officials earlier this month to discuss policy changes like ending school contract tracing and shortening quarantine periods. The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention will revisit its school masking recommendation after February break, Director Nirav Shah said last week.

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“This is subject to change should conditions dictate,” Chasse said of the Hermon policy change. “This approach is an intermediate step for what is hoped to be another adjustment towards normalcy.”

Masks would still be required for students for five days after returning to school following quarantine if they tested positive for COVID.

A federal policy requiring masks on public transit, including school buses, would still be in effect until March 18.

Lia Russell

Lia Russell is a reporter on the city desk for the Bangor Daily News. Send tips to LRussell@bangordailynews.com.