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DES MOINES, Iowa — Iowa’s public schools are in the spotlight this month due to ongoing decisions about mask mandates, but there are fears the animosity over masks could cause lingering effects for teachers.

The Iowa State Education Association, which represents Iowa’s teachers, worries the situation compounded with the ongoing stress of the pandemic may lead to burnout among educators.

“They may not have the energy to continue to move forward, so there will be folks who maybe decide to leave,” said Iowa State Education Association president Mike Beranek.

Beranek is not the only one concerned. Des Moines Public Schools teacher Dan Gutmann told the Urbandale School Board about teacher retention directly before the district approved a mask mandate.

“We’ve lost enough good teachers already, and others are on the fence,” said Gutmann, who lives in Urbandale. “With every good teacher we’ve lost, that leaves us with one less person willing to struggle through reading and math with your child.”

According to the most recent data from the Iowa Department of Education, there were 37,567 teachers within the state during the 2019-2020 school year. However, that number is nearly identical to the 37,386 teachers it tallied during the 2018-2019 school year.

Beranek believes the state can not afford to lose any more educators, and said any hostility shown towards school systems could cause some teachers to walk away for good.

“We are seeing a teacher shortage here in Iowa, and this is just one of the variables,” Beranek said. “When any of us are attacked for the work we think is important, and that we feel is appropriate, of course we all have to question.”