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During a regular meeting on Sept. 8, the Proviso Township High Schools District 209 school board voted unanimously in favor of adding a Black history course to the curriculum that all students will be required to take before graduating.

Administrators said the new course will cost an estimated $300,000 to implement, which includes an estimated $240,000 to hire three more teachers and $60,000 to buy new textbooks.

Dr. Nicole Howard, D209’s assistant superintendent for Academics, Student and Family Services, said she anticipates the course launching sometime in the summer of 2021, with full implementation set to start in August 2021. The graduation requirement would apply to the class of 2022 and beyond.

In the meantime, D209 board President Rodney Alexander said he hopes that the implementation of the course is a community concern.

“It is my hope that the community will have full input in the curriculum,” he said. “All the way down to the textbooks.”

Alexander added that he hopes that “we not just have the course in name, but that the course be so impactful and effective that we send all of our students out of here with a better understanding of the human value of [Blacks] as a marginalized group and when they become police officers and judges they will have been educated properly.”

Board member Theresa Kelly said that she hopes the new Black history course does not lean on conventional textbooks, which she said have been problematic in the past.

“Most solid programs don’t use textbooks to teach Black history,” she said. “Most textbooks are biased and not anti-racist. Most, if not all, solid courses use a variety of sources and build the curriculum themselves most times.”

Howard said that her reference to textbook could be a collection of sources. Which sources are included, along with other curriculum concerns, will be worked out ahead of the course launch, she said.

“This is only a first step in District 209 creating an equitable and representative curriculum,” said board member Claudia Medina, adding that she hopes the district uses data from a recently competed equity committee to revise existing courses, as well.

“All students need to know this [history],” Alexander said. “It’s a great day for Proviso Township highs schools.”