The Rockland area school district will make mask-wearing optional as of Monday, the superintendent announced Wednesday in a statement to the community.

Regional School Unit 13 Superintendent John McDonald said the decision to make mask-wearing optional, effective Monday, March 7 was based on the announcement made March 2 by the administration of Maine Gov. Janet Mills.

The state has not mandated masks for schools this year but had recommended that masks be worn because of the high transmission rates of COVID-19. There has been a significant decline in cases and hospitalizations in the past few months. Most school districts, including RSU 13, had mandated masks for students, staff, and community members inside the buildings and buses.

“We would like to sincerely thank everyone for their support and understanding during this difficult period, This is truly a wonderful herald for better times and breathing easier as we move closer to Spring,” McDonald stated in his March 2 message.

The Maine Department of Health and Human Services and the Maine Department of Education issued a statement that stated “This change is dependent on continued stability in COVID-19 trends in Maine, including reduced hospitalizations, reduced virus levels in wastewater, and reduced school outbreaks and absenteeism, among other quantitative and qualitative factors. It also comes as Maine and the rest of the nation enter a new phase of the COVID-19 pandemic, where vaccines, therapeutics, and other interventions highly effective at preventing serious illness and death are widely available. Maine is one of the most highly vaccinated states in the nation, and the Administration continues to strongly recommend that all people get vaccinated and boosted.”