NEW BEDFORD — New Bedford Public Schools will make masks optional starting March 7, Superintendent Thomas Anderson announced today in a letter to families and caregivers.

The relaxed policy follows the Feb. 28 expiration of the mask mandate for schools statewide announced by Gov. Charlie Baker and Education Commissioner Jeff Riley last week.

New Bedford's school district is joining a number districts across the SouthCoast making similar decisions.

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Fairhaven will also make masks optional in its schools starting March 7.

Acushnet, Dartmouth, Westport, Freetown/Lakeville, and Old Rochester Regional schools are set to make masks optional for staff and students starting at the end of the month, while Wareham and Fall River schools will loosen their mask rules from March 14.

Masks inside New Bedford's municipal buildings — including City Hall and public libraries — are optional starting Friday, Feb. 18 at 4 p.m.

Due to federal and state rules, students will still be required to wear masks on school buses and inside health or nurse's offices.

New Bedford will also be replacing its current test and stay program with optional at-home testing starting Feb. 28.

"This new at-home testing opportunity is voluntary and parents must sign up to receive the tests,” Anderson noted.

Schools will continue to test students who become ill or show symptoms during the school day, he said.

Anderson also said that New Bedford schools will no longer conduct contact tracing for in-school close contacts.

“I do highly encourage those unvaccinated individuals with compromised immune systems to continue wearing their masks," the superintendent noted, adding that some may choose to continue wearing a mask.

"I request that we support one another and understand that some individuals are working through personal situations where COVID has impacted their family members, friends or themselves," he said. "

Now is a time to be supportive and understanding — let’s please be respectful of those who choose to continue wearing a mask during the school day.”

Families can complete an opt-in testing form for each child by Friday, Feb. 25 to receive the free antigen tests kits.

Forms are available online at


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