MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) — The Vermont Agency of Education is extending until January a recommendation that schools require students to wear masks to help prevent the spread of COVID.

Education Secretary Daniel French said Tuesday the goal of extending the program is to allow time for younger students to be vaccinated, if, as expected, vaccines are approved in the coming weeks for children ages 5 to 11. The measure would also keep current COVID-19 mitigation measures in place through the holidays.

The underlying proposal would allow schools to lift a mask mandate once 80% of the students in a school have been vaccinated. While the mask requirements are voluntary, French and other state officials have said that all but one school in the state was following the school mask guidance.

“This vaccination effort not only will keep our kids safe, but also be, I think, a game-changer in terms of our operating elementary schools in particular and managing the cases at the younger grades,” French said during the weekly virus briefing.

On Tuesday, officials also announced the guidance for school sports during the winter season. Among the state’s recommendations are that all participants be vaccinated against COVID, but it is not required.