School's back in session for Massachusetts' new year, and masks are back as well.
Framingham is just one of many districts with school starting up Wednesday, with the pandemic not yet in the rear-view mirror.
"The masks are annoying," said Nathan Thurber, a senior at Framingham High. "It gets pretty hot in there but it definitely makes us safe, so it makes me feel more comfortable, I guess."
"I don't really like it," said Maria Cabral, a junior at the school. "I got my vaccine to not wear a mask and now I have to wear a mask."
School districts in Massachusetts are required to have a mask mandate in place for everyone over the age of 5 inside school buildings.
"Students are really willing to wear them and really understand, even at young ages, that it is their means of protection for themselves and others," said Theresa Alphonse, a former school teacher who's now a public health practitioner in eastern Massachusetts.
She said that masks are most crucial for the youngest students.
"Especially for the population that is under the age of 12, because that is essentially their only defense mechanism in not contracting COVID-19 at this point because they're not eligible for vaccinations," Alphonse said.
The Framingham Teachers Association said there's been no pushback from teachers over face coverings in school.
"Everybody wanted to be back to normal," said Christine Mulroney, president of the union group. "I think as the summer progressed, we knew it just wasn't going to be. I don't think anybody likes it, but we're going to manage to get through it as best we can."
The mask mandate is in place until at least Oct. 1.
After then, it could be lifted, but it depends on vaccination rates at individual schools.