The desperate teachers hope the move will force Gov. Kimberly Reynolds to reconsider her school plans for the fall while the pandemic death toll continues to rise across the country.
As the fall reopening of schools fast approaches in the absence of clear communication as to what safety measures will be adopted, a group of Iowa teachers are writing and sending their own mock obituaries to their governor. The desperate teachers hope the move will force Gov. Kimberly Reynolds to reconsider her school plans for the fall while the pandemic death toll continues to rise across the country. "I'm very scared," 7th-grade teacher Kerry Finley told Good Morning America. "Are we going to wear scrubs? Are they going to amend the dress code? If we are going to do this, we are going to have to do this the way the hospitals did. We need training. We can't just say, 'OK, go back.'"
This heartbreaking movement began after art teacher Jeremy Dumkreiger—who helped start the Facebook group Iowa Educators for a Safe Return to School—shared his self-written obituary in an op-ed for the local news blog, Iowa Starting Line, earlier this month. In the article, Dumkrieger urged fellow teachers to send their obituaries to the office of the governor and demand that she declare a statewide school mask mandate. "Wearing masks and/or face shields is the best way for schools to decrease the chance of COVID-19 from spreading from students to teachers and vice versa," he wrote.
A group of Iowa teachers have sent their own mock obituaries to their governor in hopes she'll revisit plans for reopening schools. https://t.co/RDDfJLDDaD— ABC News (@ABC) July 31, 2020
"CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield has said that if Americans wore a mask for the next six weeks, we could drive this virus into the ground.' If we do not require this mask mandate, we risk the chance of driving our teachers and schools into the ground, literally," Dumkreiger added. "I think what we were trying to do is humanize us in her mind, make her see us as people," said Finley, one of several educators who participated in the movement.
Iowa Teacher Preps Own Obituary Before School Reopening | Iowa Starting Line https://t.co/1OGhyfXiH2— PublicTeacher74 (@PTeacher74) July 31, 2020
As of Friday morning, there's been at least 42,928 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Iowa, with the number of new daily cases reaching 232 this week. "I would like to see masks on everyone. We want a safe return to school, which means safe plans," said Dumkrieger, who explained that he sent his obit to grab Reynolds' attention. "And [to] say, 'This is what we're thinking about and a lot of teachers are too scared to say it," he said. "Writing your own obituary reflects on who you are, what you've been, and who you want to become. It's sobering for sure.
Based on current infection rates, more than 80 percent of Americans live in a county where at least one infected person would be expected to show up to a school of 500 students and staff in the first week, if school started today. https://t.co/oZzNn5BYxT— Amber Gustafson (@AmberForIowa) July 31, 2020
Meanwhile, according to The Hill, Reynolds did provide some guidance at a press conference Thursday, revealing that the state plans to provide personal protective equipment to schools for an initial 30 days. The governor added that the Iowa Department of Education will also be releasing guidance for schools in the event that someone at a school is infected with the virus. "We need to keep our next generation learning, growing, and preparing for a bright future and online learning is an essential component of that," Reynolds said. "But it can't make up for the critical role our schools play in the development of social and emotional skills that our children rely on."
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds said Thursday that schools would have to see a coronavirus positivity rate of at least 15% in the county where they are located before they could request to transition a school building or district to fully online learning. https://t.co/wjvaxi271w— Brianne Pfannenstiel (@brianneDMR) July 30, 2020
However, this guidance has done little to comfort some educators who pointed out that while it might be helpful for counties with small case counts, it won’t be adequate for larger, more densely populated counties. "My school has nearly 800 students and as a fine arts teacher, I will see over 300 students over a two day period," said Emily Tinsman, a music teacher in Des Moines Public Schools. "If I contract the virus, I’ve exposed over 300 students. It’s hard to understand her guidance as she’s not a health professional or an educator surrounded by hundreds of students every day."
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