A private, Christian school in the Chicago suburbs temporarily lost its state recognition after it delayed updating its health guidelines to include Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker’s in-school mask mandate.
Timothy Christian School in Elmhurst, Illinois, published a video of the school’s superintendent stating that leadership intends on waiting to implement a mask mandate until closer to the first day of school. Superintendent Matt Davidson cited construction projects in the high school that will delay Timothy Christian students from returning to school at the same time as most public schools in the state.
“We’ve taken a very prayerful and methodical approach … Our goal is to stick with the Timothy health plan, and that plan is mask optional,” Davidson said. “Due to the construction project in the high school, we are starting school a full week later (or more) than most schools. This gives us a unique advantage and extra time to see how this matter plays out statewide as schools open their doors. This also gives us more time to closely observe local data and other Covid metrics.”
Following the video’s publication, the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) sent an email to Timothy Christian’s leadership informing them that the school’s recognition status was revoked because the school “declined to affirm” the state’s universal masking requirements.
Timothy Christian denies that it defied the state’s mandate by delaying the reinstitution of a mask mandate.
According to the Chicago Tribune, non-recognized schools are ineligible to participate in Illinois High School Association and Illinois Elementary School Association sanctioned activities, such as sports. Graduating seniors will also receive a diploma that is not recognized by the state’s board of education.
ISBE Superintendent Carmen Ayala maintains that universal masking — and coercing schools into enforcing universal masking — is necessary to keep students safe.
“The purpose of the universal indoor masking requirement is to ensure that all students can safely attend school in-person this fall,” Ayala said. “Therefore, ISBE must take every action possible under its authority to ensure compliance in all schools with the Executive Order.”
However, an email from Timothy Christian leadership seems to contradict the ISBE superintendent’s claim that immediately revoking a school’s recognition status is the only way the state is ensuring compliance. According to an email sent to parents, other schools that questioned the state-sanctioned masking policy were placed on probation and allowed to create a corrective plan.
“Timothy did not receive a notice of probation,” the email reads. “Multiple steps have been put in place for other schools, and yet ISBE went right to a nuclear option before we’ve made a final decision about masks or even started school.”
In a statement, Timothy opted to follow Pritzker’s executive order that reinstates universal masking in schools.
“Nevertheless, based on the current situation, Timothy has determined that it will follow the Executive Order, and see one another’s unmasked faces outside,” the school said.
According to an email from Davidson, ISBE restored the school’s recognition status contingent upon an update to Timothy Christian’s health plans.