The Illinois Board of Education (ISBE) placed 34 schools on probation for violating the state’s mask mandate.
Governor J.B. Pritzker announced on Aug. 4 that students would be required to wear masks when they return to school regardless of vaccination status.
“Preventing outbreaks from the start also prevents kids from having to stay home because they’re sick or in quarantine,” Pritzker said in a statement.
According to CNBC, “the move comes as the coronavirus delta variant spreads rapidly across the state and the nation. Illinois experienced a 46% increase in cases last week, a seven-day average of almost 1,669 new coronavirus cases.”
Now, just days into the new school year, the ISBE will meet with the multiple districts that are refusing to comply with the mandate. They will submit a corrective action plan to fix what the ISBE describes as, “deficiencies” that are currently “a danger to students and staff.”
The action plans must be submitted to ISBE Superintendent Carmen Ayala and the regional superintendent of schools within 60 days.
In addition to the public schools, seven nonpublic schools lost ISBE’s recognition for failing to comply with the mask mandate.
Losing recognition would disqualify a school from funding from the ISBE or the Illinois High School Association.
The ISBE restored recognition to two school districts and two nonpublic schools after they adopted a universal indoor masking policy.
ISBE spokeswoman Jackie Matthews said Wednesday, “We will continue to act swiftly with both nonpublic and public schools that have confirmed they are not implementing universal indoor masking as required by [the executive order].”
Just one of these schools that was disciplined by the state was in the Chicago area.
Curt Nettles is the superintendent of Clinton Community Unit School District 15, which is 160 miles southwest of Chicago
He told The Chicago Tribune that many parents in the community asked if students could be mask optional. He said his district was able to have its schools open 5 days a week last year while many districts across Illinois remained fully remote.
“We should be able to lessen restrictions based on local factors,” said Nettles, adding that differences in opinions in the community regarding the state’s school mask mandate have “pitted neighbors and friends against each other.”