Pritzker administration forces Christian school to follow mask mandate
Timothy Christian Schools tried to keep their mask-optional policy despite Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s statewide school mask mandate. The state quickly stripped the schools of their recognition, crippling their high school seniors as they started college applications. Masks are now on.
Timothy Christian Schools planned to make masks optional, despite a statewide mandate Aug. 4 that both private and public schools had to enforce Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s rule to mask students.
Superintendent Matt Davidson posted a video Aug. 11 explaining Timothy Christian in Elmhurst, Illinois, would exercise their own set of COVID-19 precautions. Those did not include enforcing Pritzker’s mask mandate.
“Our goal is to stick with the Timothy Health Plan, and thus, remain mask optional,” Davidson said in the video. “We’re not ramping up for some big fight. Speaking personally, I’m not comfortable with that approach and I wouldn’t support it. The issue of masks in schools is still, categorically, a recommendation, and not a requirement, from the CDC.”
The state quickly responded, with state Superintendent of Education Carmen Ayala issuing a letter to school superintendents, threating the “force of law” regarding the Illinois school mask mandate. Ayala warned both public and private schools, “noncompliance is not an option.”
Defiant schools or school districts would become “unrecognized.” That’s what she did to Timothy Christian Schools.
Becoming “unrecognized” by the Illinois State Board of Education means the school’s low-income students cannot receive scholarships from the Invest in Kids program, that student athletes cannot compete in Illinois High School Association sports and that seniors will be at a disadvantage when applying to colleges. Colleges will likely penalize students for not having an accredited degree, college admissions expert Perry Kalmus said on Fox 32 Chicago.
The pressure ended Timothy Christian’s effort to let parents decide about masking their children.
Timothy Christian contacted ISBE and promised to enforce the mask mandate.
“I’m pleased to announce that our ISBE recognition and its privileges will be fully restored once we update our health plan on the website in a clear manner to demonstrate full compliance with the executive order,” Davidson said Aug. 13.
During the COVID-19 lockdown in 2020, Timothy Christian Schools offered both in-person and remote learning as half of Chicago Public Schools students skipped remote learning. Timothy Christian continued to offer in-person education during the summer with a mask-optimal policy. Davidson said they maintained a safe environment for students and teachers.
Pritzker initially said he was leaving mask policies up to local school boards.
“Families should be involved in making decisions for their own families. And, school districts and school boards will make decisions for the schools within their districts,” Pritzker said July 17.
A few weeks later he flip-flopped, issuing a statewide mask mandate because he said too few school districts were making what he considered to be the correct decision.
“Far too few school districts have chosen to follow the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention prescription for keeping students and staff safe,” Pritzker said Aug. 4. “Given the CDC’s strong recommendation, I had hoped that a state mask requirement in schools wouldn’t be necessary, but it is.”
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention “recommends” universal masking for all students, staff and visitors in U.S. schools.