Teachers and staff members in Proviso Township High Schools District 209 will be working from home again starting Nov. 12. The decision comes roughly a month after the D209 Superintendent James Henderson required roughly 300 teachers to return to the district’s three campuses, where they taught their students virtually on Promethean boards in empty classrooms.
“Recent data shows that all areas within the Proviso footprint are trending upward with COVID-19 cases and are currently in the red zone,” Henderson said in a video announcement of the decision released on Nov.11. “Given increase in cases, the board and I have determined that Thursday, Nov. 12, faculty will commence working remotely. Staff schedules will be modified to ensure reduced number of personnel in the building.”
Henderson’s decision comes as cases of COVID-19 surge across Proviso Township. The 7-day rolling average of positive of COVID-19 tests across nine Proviso Township suburbs is 17.27 percent as of Nov. 7 according to Northwestern University’s online COVID-19 dashboard. That’s higher than the 8 percent threshold that state health officials say triggers new mitigation measures to contain the spread, such as prohibiting indoor dining.
On Nov. 6, D209 confirmed that three employees who work at Proviso East had tested positive for COVID-19, but that none of those employees are teachers. A district official said that seven employees have tested positive for COVID-19 since the start of the school year.
After Henderson’s decision to require teachers to return to classrooms, the Proviso Teachers’ Union filed an unfair labor practices “charge and a grievance against District 209 after being forced to return to what they say are unsafe school buildings despite an agreement with Henderson to allow them to continue to teach from home,” according to previous reporting.
So far, the status of that grievance is unclear. Last week, a D209 spokesperson said that the administration did not know the status of that grievance. An attempt last week to reach Maggie Riley, the union’s president, was unsuccessful.
In his video announcement on Nov. 11, Henderson said that “we’re going to stay the course. This has been a challenging year, because of the pandemic and the situation is still very fluid … we will always follow the science.”