KANKAKEE — After being a state-recognized school for nearly all of its 40-year history, Kankakee Trinity Academy was moved to “unrecognized” status for not enforcing the state mask mandate, and its leaders have decided to seek accreditation elsewhere.
The private pre-K – 12 school was notified of the change in status in an Aug. 30 letter from the Illinois State Board of Education, which indicated that the school had lost access to state funding and its ability to participate in Illinois Elementary School Association and Illinois High School Association competitions.
In response, school leaders said they will not implement the mask mandate, and instead they have begun the process to gain accreditation with the Association of Christian Schools International.
Tom Brands, president of the KTA Board of Directors, said the board discussed seeking accreditation with this organization several years ago, but the move was tabled.
In light of the mask issue, that option became a more serious consideration, he said.
“We are so closely aligned with what we require, that we do not believe there will be much to this process,” Brands said. “In other words, we already have a lot of things in place that they require.”
In a letter to parents regarding the decision, the board said the school has begun the “Crosswalk to Accreditation” process and anticipates KTA will gain full accreditation with the organization by Jan. 1, 2022.
“Full accreditation with ACSI means that your child will have access to any college or university throughout the world,” the letter states.
Higher education institutions require high school diplomas from schools with official accreditation and/or state recognition.
Principal Brad Prairie added that the school has been a member of the ACSI for at least 20 years, but it has not pursued accreditation from the organization until now.
KTA was founded in 1981, and in February 1983, it was evaluated and granted full recognition status by ISBE following a visit from the state, according to the school’s website.
“It’s been a blessing for us to be recognized [by the state] for 40 years,” Prairie said. “We are appreciative of that.”
Prairie said the only state money KTA receives is Title II funding, which is designated for training teachers and principals, but the school does not rely heavily on state funds in the same way public schools do.
The letter from ISBE also indicated the school would no longer be eligible for the Children’s Tuition Fund, a tax-credit program for private schools, Prairie said.
“[State funding] is very minimal,” Brands added. “It’s not anything that impacts our decision whatsoever. The state does almost nothing for us.”
For athletics, Prairie said students will still compete against other Christian schools.
“It would involve some travel,” Prairie noted. “We would definitely be traveling more than if we were playing locally. You have northwestern Indiana schools, the suburbs of Chicago; there’s lots of directions where there’s Christian schools.”
School officials declined to comment on COVID-19 concerns or other precautions the school is taking in the absence of a masking requirement.
About 350 students attend the school.
“We respect the governor’s position in trying to keep everyone safe, and I don’t envy his position,” Prairie said. “We pray for him daily and are asking for God to help us through this.”