SIOUX CITY, Iowa — A handful of Iowa teachers are responding to Governor Kim Reynolds announcement last week to require mostly in-person learning this fall with a rather morbid protest: drafting their own obituaries.
On Friday the governor said she will override local school districts and require students to spend at least half of their education time in classrooms, despite concerns that the move could endanger children and teachers as the number of coronavirus cases increases in the state.
Since the governor’s announcement, Iowa educators have been sharing their frustrations online.
“I wrote my obituary just to bring attention to Kim Reynolds not having a plan and not knowing anything. I hope to God not to use it and I don’t expect to, but it’s just one of those things where I want people to think about it. This is serious,” said Jeremy Dumkreiger, a Sioux City educator.
Dumkreiger has been an art teacher for about six years. He said the idea to write his obituary was not solely a political statement. He has genuine fears about going back to school.
“I don’t wanna get sick. I don’t want to see my kids get sick. I don’t want my students to get sick. I don’t want to see my colleagues get sick,” he said.
A handful of other teachers have done the same, but Dumkreiger said he does not expect many to join in on the sobering experience.
He is asking the Iowa Department of Education to mandate face coverings for schools before they return to class. In previous guidelines, the department did not recommend wearing face coverings. Some individual districts have decided to mandate face coverings for their schools, but Dumkrieger worries about inconsistency.
“Even if our school does it perfect we still have sports and have to interact with schools that might not being doing these things,” he said. “That’s the problem.”
He and other educators have also expressed concerns about the short and long-term effects on students’ mental health of learning in-person during a pandemic.
“What if one of those kids gets COVID and takes it home to their grandma or their parents and that parent dies? Can you imagine the stress and trauma that will cause on somebody?” Dumkreiger said. “I can’t imagine this learning environment is going to being conducive to learning and I think we’re going to need to hire more counselors.”
The governor has also expressed similar concerns, but on the contrary, argues the importance of having children in school for the ones who depend on it.
“Students learn best when they’re in school,” Reynolds said on Friday. “For all of the wonders of online and distanced learning — and it does play a role — it’s not a replacement for in-person classes. We also can’t forget the critical role that our schools play in addressing inequities for our most vulnerable student populations.”
Dumkreiger and a handful of other teachers who also wrote their own obituaries are sending them to the governor and are asking again to mandate masks if classes have to be in-person. You can read his preemptive obituary here.