After almost two years, students at Philadelphia Archdiocese schools in the city will be able to remove their face masks.

Effective March 9, the wearing of face masks will become optional at archdiocesan high schools as well as parish and regional elementary schools located within Philadelphia.

The decision was announced today in a letter signed by archdiocesan educational officials Nancy Kurtz, interim superintendent for secondary schools; Irene Horstmann Hannan, CEO of the Faith in the Future Foundation; and Dr. Andrew McLaughlin, secretary for elementary education.

The officials recommended masks continue to be worn by those who are unvaccinated or who have “certain medical conditions.” A surge in cases within a given school building or county could prompt the return to masks, said officials.

Philadelphia’s Department of Public Health dropped its mask mandate March 2, moving the city into the “All Clear” COVID response level. However, mandatory masking was set to continue until March 9, with a one-week requirement for masking “after spring break to avoid a post-break surge in cases,” according to the department.

Mask requirements at archdiocesan schools in the four-county suburban area were lifted Feb. 28.

As of Feb. 25, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) no longer requires mass to be worn on buses or vans operated by public or private school systems. Masks are still required on other buses and on subways.

Archdiocesan schools will continue to observe COVID protocols such as social distancing, increased ventilation and enhanced cleaning.

Officials urged “in the strongest possible terms” that “all students and staff obtain the COVID-19 vaccine and booster.”