La Salle school to stay open, restraining order granted on state’s closure

School will remain open as both sides sort out the issue

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

A La Salle school that the Illinois State Board of Education earlier this week ordered to close will stay open – for now.

Cook County Circuit Court Judge Celia Gamrath ruled Friday that a temporary restraining order will be issued allowing Menta’s schools in La Salle, Centralia and Springfield to remain open.

Gamrath said that students or their school districts may choose not to attend the school Monday without penalty, but the Menta school in La Salle will be open for them. The judge said that she took into consideration what would cause the least disruption to families and students, as well as their safety, until the matter between ISBE and Menta can be resolved.

Earlier this week, ISBE issued an order to close the school by Friday. 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.

Menta contests the ISBE.

Menta has received tuition rates from the Illinois Purchase Care Review Board, school spokesman Steve Brown said.

The board only issues rates when programs are approved, Brown said.

Menta’s attorney, Christopher Naveja, said the state board pulled the equivalence of a “gotcha moment,” by seemingly approving each step of the school’s application processes but then targeted it for closure after a complaint because it opened without a formal letter.

The state board’s attorney, Alex Boe, said Menta enrolled students without the formal approval, and without approval is operating illegally.

A status hearing was set for 8:45 a.m. Friday, Oct. 27, to decide what the next step is. Gamrath’s ruling was a temporary solution until the matter can be resolved, she said.

The ISBE said it discovered the unauthorized facilities after receiving a complaint the week of Oct. 9 and began investigating immediately. The agency made unannounced visits to the facilities last week to confirm the reports of them operating without state approval.

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.

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.