In this April 5, 2021, file photo, students file into the Beebe School, in Malden, Massachusetts, as they return to full-time in-person school. Credit: Jessica Rinaldi / The Boston Globe via AP

Massachusetts education officials released new guidance Friday that provides a glimpse into how the return to school for the 2021-22 school year will differ from the previous year.

Namely, there will be fewer masks.

The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, in guidance developed with the Department of Public Health, is “strongly encouraging” but not requiring unvaccinated students in grades K-12 wear masks when inside school buildings. The recommendation also applies to unvaccinated staff.

Masks will be mandated for all students and staff on school buses at all times, per federal public health guidelines, as well as in school health offices.

Additionally, “masks are not necessary outdoors and may be removed while eating indoors,” the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education said.

Vaccinated students and staff can remain unmasked indoors and outdoors, per the state guidance.

Students and staff who are at high risk for severe symptoms of COVID-19 or who have high risk members of their households are encouraged to wear masks regardless of their vaccination status.

“Any child or family who prefers to mask at school should be supported in this choice,” the guidance states.

Story by Michelle Williams,