School board members and administrators spent months preparing for a safe return to school this fall amid the pandemic. Each district began to announce their plans to help Iowa families know what to expect.
Then Gov. Kim Reynolds decided not to trust the expertise of educators and health professionals and issued a proclamation that caused a great deal of anxiety and anger among teachers, parents, and many others across the state.
Reynolds signed the proclamation last Friday, stating that in-person instruction should be prioritized instead of remote learning. That same day, Iowa hit a new record with 879 new COVID-19 cases.
As a grandparent, I felt so much anger thinking of sending my grandson to school even if the possibility of him getting infected is remote.
What is most infuriating to many is that Reynolds is making decisions based on political interests instead of the well-being of the kids, teachers, and entire families.
I knew I was not alone experiencing these feelings, so I reached out to individuals I know for certain have the best interest of our kids in mind and who also can be directly impacted by the proclamation.
Noemi Mendez, a Des Moines Public Schools employee told me: “Working as an educator had never felt so stressful. As a district employee of DMPS, we have been working relentlessly on a plan to return safely making all necessary accommodations for the best interest of all our families, staff, and students.
“However, with the proclamation the state government has ordered this week, it puts us in hurried and haphazard predicament. I believe in the senior leadership of DMPS and know that they will make a wise and concise decision for our students, families and staff.”
Heather Camacho is a parent and a teacher, and she had this to say: “After the governor’s proclamation, I feel angry and concerned. My children’s schools began asking for parent and student input beginning in March. Over the summer again, we were asked about what would be best for our families. After compiling this information, my children’s schools/district unveiled a plan that met the needs and safety precautions necessary to try to address all during this crazy time. The governor ‘overruling’ the district seems to be a political move and gross overstep. Instead of trusting parents and schools, she endangers all with haphazard decisions.”
Celeste Rosas Stirgus shared: “As an educator, I feel stressed over our current situation. As a parent, I feel anxious and concerned. I know DMPS worked very hard to create two plans for the fall, after asking input from parents, and staff members, I feel frustrated and concerned after the governor’s proclamation. I believe that our district did their absolute best in considering the safety of our students and families. We all have someone that can be at risk for Covid-19. How can we continue to protect our loved ones when we do not have the support from our government? I know our district will continue to make the best decisions for the safety of our students, families, and staff members.”
Ruby Herrera, another DMPS teacher, sent me an emotional statement: “The governor’s proclamation has been the main dish of conversation. Never have I felt so perplexed in returning to teach. I absolutely love teaching and seeing my students engaged in the classroom. It is what I live for. But that is just it. Will I live? My doctor already mailed my living will packet this week. I am also a single mother. My priority and responsibility are to keep my daughter safe and healthy. That is what all loving parents want right? But to do that, I need to start by making sure it is safe for me to go back to the classroom as well. I cannot strike and I cannot quit. My feelings are stuck in limbo. I want my daughter and students to have the mental-social-emotional connection they receive from being in school … Under normal circumstances, DMPS cannot find a Spanish-speaking substitute for my class. Good luck finding a risk-taking substitute this fall. The struggle is real, parenting and teaching decisions have never been so difficult.”
Herrera told me that after she shared this statement with me, she broke down and cried.
While looking into what educators had to say, I came across a Facebook page called Iowa Educators for a safe return to school. The page has more than 19,000 members.
Jeremy Dumkrieger, an administrator on the page, told Starting Line: “We started Iowa Educators for a Safe Return to school after Kim Reynolds issued her zero-guidance statement. This sent teachers into a confused spiral; I know that is how I felt, abandoned. I am sure that’s how administrators across the state felt. She had thrown all responsibility at them. Educators have enough pressure with worrying about a deadly virus spreading quietly looking for someone to kill.”
This group is asking teachers across Iowa to prepare obituaries and send them to Gov. Reynolds.
What is it going to take for Reynolds to start listening to ALL Iowans? How many more deaths need to happen for this administration to wake up?
The coronavirus pandemic has been difficult for everyone, but this administration is turning out to be a dangerous and, in many cases, a lethal experiment when deciding for Iowans.
By Claudia Thrane
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