Lutheran schools in Itasca, Naperville still not complying with mask rules, state says
Of three suburban private schools that had their recognition status pulled by the Illinois State Board of Education last week after officials said they flouted a COVID-19 mask mandate, just one has been reinstated.
Bethany Lutheran School in Naperville and Lutheran School of St. Luke in Itasca remained on ISBE's list of sanctioned schools as of Tuesday, the agency reported.
Those two schools and Trinity Christian School in Shorewood lost their state recognition Aug. 18. But Trinity reversed course to comply with Gov. J.B. Pritzker's order and had its recognition restored Friday.
Loss of recognition status comes with stiff penalties such as ineligibility for Illinois High School Association and Illinois Elementary School Association sports, exclusion from the Invest in Kids tax scholarship program, and the loss of state acknowledgment of graduates' diplomas.
Educators at Bethany Lutheran and St. Luke schools did not respond to requests for comment from the Daily Herald.
The vast majority of Illinois' 852 public school districts plus more than 1,140 nonpublic schools are requiring masks.
The state has taken action against 54 educational institutions -- 45 public school districts and nine private school organizations -- since Aug. 11 by either pulling recognition status or putting them on probation.
Pritzker issued the mask order Aug. 4 amid a surge in infections from the highly infectious delta variant. The move has drawn ire from some educators who argue the decision should rest with parents and from Republican lawmakers who contend the governor is overstepping his authority.
"By continuing to exclude other state and local leaders, he is failing the people of Illinois who need statewide coordination, input and buy in from the public," state Senate Republican Leader Dan McConchie of Hawthorn Woods said earlier.
Pritzker stood by his decision Tuesday when asked at an event in Chicago if he really intended to take away sports and deny students' diplomas if their districts defy the order.
"Am I really going to do that? Yes, we are really going to do that," he said. "And by the way, many school districts are heeding our call to have mask mandates in their schools and so they're reversing their position.
"The reality is the vast majority of the people in Illinois want to make sure the children of Illinois, their parents, their communities are safe, and having a mask mandate operative in schools will help to do that."
All public school districts in the suburbs have complied with the masking rule.
ISBE has reinstated recognition status to 11 districts and private schools after educators agreed to require masks, including Timothy Christian Schools in Elmhurst.
Six private schools are currently not recognized, including the two in DuPage County.
Thirty-seven districts are on probation, which means the ISBE is reviewing their situations.
"Districts that are still on probation will participate in a conference with ISBE to discuss compliance issues," agency spokeswoman Jaclyn Matthews said.
• Daily Herald staff writer Jake Griffin contributed to this report.