La Salle school says it will fight state’s ordered closure

State board had ordered school to cease operations as of Oct. 20

Menta School is located at the Grove Center in La Salle.

A La Salle school the Illinois State Board of Education ordered to close by Friday is saying it will be seeking an injunction to block the attempted closure.

The state board has notified Menta, which operates a school out of the Grove Center in La Salle, as well as in Centralia and Springfield, to cease operations for students from public school districts as of Oct. 20.

Menta has received tuition rates from the Illinois Purchase Care Review Board, said the school’s spokesman Steve Brown. The board only issues rates when programs are approved, Brown said.

The state board contests this information, saying in its news release Monday, the facilities did not have the required contractual agreements with the students’ home school districts and did not at the time of enrollment have the required rates set by the Illinois Purchased Care Review Board.

The Menta facilities were operating as therapeutic day schools for students with significant social-emotional disabilities, ISBE said in a news release. The Menta facilities had applied to ISBE for approval in the spring. None of the three facilities received approval, and yet they opened and started enrolling and serving students.

The school’s CEO Rory Conran issued a letter Monday to parents and school officials, saying the state board acted irresponsibly and unlawfully.

“We are forced to respond to ISBE’s recent decision to use unlawful and retaliatory exercise of authority in deeming the three new Menta programs in La Salle, Springfield and Centralia as ‘not approved,’” Conran said.

“We want to emphasize that despite now denying our applications for approval, we want to clarify that ISBE had originally approved these programs,” Conran said. “We had met all the prerequisites for approval as per applicable regulations. ISBE had not only verbally and explicitly informed all three of our programs that they were approved at the conclusion of the final ISBE ‘walkthrough,’ but they also issued our private facility and RCDTS Codes to all three programs, approved calendars and all three programs received approved rates from the Illinois Purchased Care Review Board, which only occurs if a program is approved by ISBE.

“In essence, despite unequivocal evidence that these three programs were approved by ISBE, ISBE now asserts that the programs are not approved, solely because they failed to issue a follow-up written approval letter due to their own incompetence, and demands immediate shutdown.”

The ISBE said it discovered the unauthorized facilities after receiving a complaint and began investigating immediately. The agency made unannounced visits to the facilities last week to confirm the reports of them operating without state approval. It also found troubling restraint and time-out practices at the Springfield and Centralia locations.

Further, the ISBE said it observed during its unannounced visits that staff at the Menta Springfield and Menta La Salle facilities did not match the information submitted in their applications.

As a result of these violations and safety concerns, the ISBE has denied the facilities’ applications for approval.

“We were invited into these communities to address pressing needs, and our hearts go out to the students and families who may be impacted by this irresponsible decision,” Conran said. Please be assured that we are working endlessly to ensure that the unlawful actions of ISBE are resolved, clear our name of any false accusations, and continue our vital work in support of students and their communities.”

Menta enrolled 125 students from 41 school districts in new facilities in Springfield, Centralia and La Salle without having received the required state approval. La Salle’s school has 33 pre-kindergarten through 12th-grade students, according to Menta’s website.