51 Illinois schools lose state recognition for defying mask mandate

Regional News

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WTVO) — Fifty-one school districts in Illinois, including schools in Clark and Crawford counties, have been put on probation for noncompliance with Gov. JB Pritzker’s mask mandate.

See the full list (Excel spreadsheet)

On August 4th, Pritzker issued an executive order mandating masks be worn by students and staff, regardless of vaccination status. The order followed updated guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention aimed at reducing the spread of the contagious delta variant of the coronavirus with causes COVID-19.

Facing an outcry from parents and staff in their communities over the forced mask mandate, school districts across the state say they have consulted legal advisors about the liability and litigious hurdles they would face if they defy the Governor’s order.

Frustrated parents are calling out local school districts over the mandate, forcing “thousands of volunteer School Board members and superintendents throughout the state to act in a way that they personally disagree with in order to comply with the order,” according to Meridian School District Superintendent P.J. Caposey.

The Illinois State Board of Education State Superintendent Dr. Carmen Ayala issued a warning to schools, saying, “The executive order has the force of law. I understand the pressure some school and district leaders may be facing from community members, and I will provide you with every support to understand, communicate, and comply with the order.

“However, noncompliance is not an option,” Ayala continued. “I will not compromise the health and safety of students or staff, nor will I risk even one child’s life.

“A [non-complying] district would first have its recognition status changed to ‘On Probation’ and would be asked to submit a corrective action plan. Failure to address the deficiencies would lead to nonrecognition, meaning total loss of access to state funding and loss of the school’s ability to engage in any Illinois High School Association and Illinois Elementary School Association athletic competitions,” she continued.

In addition, a non-compliant school would be unable to participate in Illinois High School Association (IHSA) sports, and a diploma from a school in non-compliance would not be acknowledged by the state.

The districts with an On Probation status include Martinsville CUSD #C-3 in Clark County; Hutsonville CUSD 1 and Oblong CUSD 4 in Crawford County; and Altamont Lutheran Interparish School in Effingham County.

The Durand School District announced on August 10th that they would begin the school year masks-optional, and are the only district in Winnebago County to appear on the list.

An IBSE spokesperson said, “The district now has the opportunity to meet with ISBE and to submit a corrective action plan to address the deficiencies that are presenting a danger to students and staff. If the school district does not submit an approvable plan, it will lose recognition status, meaning total loss of access to state funding and the inability to participate in IHSA and IESA sports. The exact timeline is below.

  • ISBE will reach out to the district to schedule a conference to discuss compliance issues with the district.
  • Within 60 days of this conference, the district is required to submit a corrective plan to the Regional Superintendent of Schools and State Superintendent.
  • ISBE will respond to the corrective plan within 15 days after receipt.
  • If no plan is submitted, or if no approvable plan is received within 60 days after the conference, the State Board of Education may act to change the status of the district, or of the affected school or schools, to “Nonrecognized.”

Timothy Christian Schools in Elmhurst was stripped of its state recognition on August 11th, but it was restored after administrators backed down and agreed to require masks with the start of classes.

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