In a briefing held in Albany, the Democrat cited declining COVID-19 cases and guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
She said counties and cities could keep their own mandates in place, and parents could still choose to send their kids to school in masks.
The new rules effective Wednesday apply to children 2 years and older in childcare facilities. New York State has 2.7 million schoolchildren, including about 1 million in New York City.
Earlier this month, Hochul let a broad mask mandate for most indoor settings expire, but said the schools' requirement would remain in place. She had promised to revisit the schools question by the first week of March.
The broad mask mandate was implemented during a COVID-19 surge fueled by the omicron variant of the coronavirus in December.
Masks are still required in some places, including public transit.