Arlington Heights school loses state recognition over masks

A private school in Arlington Heights recently joined other educational institutions disciplined by the state for flouting a universal mask mandate intended to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Christian Liberty Academy, which has students from kindergarten through high school, is not complying with the mask order, Illinois State Board of Education officials said.

Christian Liberty Academy educators did not respond to requests for comment Monday.

"We know that consistent and correct mask use is the simplest, most effective way to keep students safely in school, where they can learn and grow to their fullest potential," State Superintendent of Education Carmen Ayala said in a letter to the academy. "And masks work best when everyone wears one."

The school's recognition was pulled Friday, meaning Christian Liberty students won't be eligible to participate in IHSA sports or the Invest in Kids Act scholarship program, among other consequences, Ayala said.

The Illinois State Board of Education has taken action against 57 public school districts and private educational organizations since Aug. 11 for defying the mask rule issued Aug. 4 by Gov. J.B. Pritzker. The state has reinstated recognition status to 17 after they agreed to follow the policy.

The vast majority of public and private schools across Illinois are requiring masks inside for students and staff as cases of the highly infectious delta variant of COVID-19 surge.

Of those incurring ISBE penalties, most are located outside the Chicago area, but a second in the suburbs, Bethany Lutheran School in Naperville, is still non-recognized as of Aug. 18.

Another, Lutheran School of St. Luke in Itasca, had its recognition restored Thursday.

Of those placed on probation for ignoring mask rules, 46 are public school districts, most of them downstate. Thirteen have been reinstated. Eleven private educational organizations had their recognition removed; four have been reinstated.

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