D209 Superintendent James Henderson announced that Proviso high schools, including Proviso East (pictured here), would bring some students back for hybrid learning on Feb. 18. The teachers' union, however, says they never agreed to that. | File photo

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Some students in Proviso High School District 209 may return to the classroom part-time beginning Feb. 18, according to an announcement from Superintendent James Henderson on Jan. 22.

The original date for students to return to school was Feb. 1, but in the announcement, Henderson cited availability of 3,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine for the district and talks with the Proviso Teachers’ Union that spurred the decision to push back the return-date.

“After speaking with the Proviso Teachers’ Union, we have decided to push the return to in-person learning date back to February 18,” reads the announcement.

The Proviso Teachers’ Union, however, said they have not agreed to the return date of Feb. 18.

“We are still negotiating with the district,” said union president Maggie Riley. She said the union is meeting with Henderson and his team on Jan. 27 to discuss, among other things, the return date for students. “Health and safety concerns will be part of that discussion,” Riley said.

The hybrid model in D209 will consist of students attending classes in-person two days a week and learning remotely the other three. An option will be given and parents and students can opt to continue remote-only if desired.

At the Jan. 12 board meeting, member Theresa Kelly announced that the district was planning to bring students back to the hybrid learning situation on Feb. 1.

However, on Jan. 23 it was announced that returning to school will be postponed until Feb. 18 due to vaccine administration for teachers, staff and students that will be occurring within the next few weeks.

According to the announcement, D209 is receiving 3,000 doses of the COVID-vaccine “in the next few weeks and will establish a plan for safe distribution.”

The district plans to provide the first round of vaccinations to teachers and staff and will then “make determinations about providing vaccination to students who are over the age of 16.”

According to the announcement, the plan is to begin administering vaccines during the first week of February.

“We expect that District 209 will be used as one of the vaccination sites in our area,” Henderson announced in a second announcement on the issue on Jan. 25.

He also stated that although the district won’t require employees to be vaccinated, it is strongly encouraged, and anyone who chooses not to won’t be exempt from returning to work.

“All District 209 employees are encouraged to receive the vaccine as soon as it is available,” Henderson wrote. “Our current planning does not require employees to be vaccinated, but it our sincere hope that everyone will do so to protect themselves, their families, and our school community. Employees making the personal choice not to be vaccinated will not be excused from returning to work onsite.”