Iowa teachers dramatize school reopening amid coronavirus pandemic by sending obituaries to governor

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Teachers in Iowa are sending mock obituaries to Gov. Kimberly Richards (R) in protest over her plans to allow primary schools to reopen in a few weeks for the 2020-2021 term.

Jeremy Dumkreiger led the movement after helping to launch a Facebook group called Iowa Educators for a Safe Return to School and sharing his own self-written obit in an op-ed for state-centric news blog Iowa Starting Line.

Writing in the July 16 post, Dumkreiger encouraged other teachers in the state to author their own obituaries and “demand Gov. Reynolds declare a statewide school mask mandate.”

“If we do not require this mask mandate, we risk the chance of driving our teachers and schools into the ground, literally,” he wrote.

Since then, several teachers have self-written obits to force Reynolds to adopt additional safety policies ahead of schools reopening in about a month.

“I think what we were trying to do is humanize us in her mind, make her see us as people,” said Kerry Finley, a 7th-grade teacher in Iowa City, in an interview with ABC’s “Good Morning America.”

On Thursday, Reynolds provided details about her school reopening plan, noting that the state will supply educators with personal protective equipment for the first 30 days of the school year.

She also said that the Iowa Department of Education would be publishing guidelines on how to handle coronavirus infections at schools.

“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 during her presser.

“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,” she added.

Some educators don’t think the state’s doing enough, however.

“My school has nearly 800 students and as a fine arts teacher, I will see over 300 students over a two day period,” Emily Tinsman, a music teacher in Des Moines Public Schools, told The Hill following Reynolds’ press conference.

She said the state’s plans may work better with rural and smaller school districts where there are fewer COVID-19 cases than in larger districts like hers.

According to, Iowa presently has about 11,100 active cases of the virus as of this writing. There have been around 865 deaths, but it’s unclear how many of those were actually the result of coronavirus, given the CDC’s recommendation that anyone who has COVID-19 when they die from any cause is to be counted as a ‘coronavirus death.’

The number of repeat coronavirus ‘positive’ tests are also skewing the data, experts have noted.

In recent days, other governors have announced they will require schools to reopen for in-person fall courses, citing scientific studies that indicate children and teens are not ‘super spreaders’ of the virus.

South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem said earlier this week kids in her state will “definitely” be in classes.

“Well, the science is clear, our kids need to be in school. It’s better for them,” she said. “We’ve got a lot of kids that haven’t checked in since this virus hit. It’s really our most vulnerable population that needs to be back in those classrooms.”

Her state will be spending $47 million to help schools reopen safely.

Meanwhile, the CDC has issued new guidelines that incorporate data from Europe and Asia while leaving school reopening decisions to states and localities.

“Prior evidence from other countries is limited and should be interpreted with caution, but according to the release suggests that the majority of children with COVID-19 were infected by a family member in the household rather than a fellow student at school,” notes Contagion Live, citing the CDC.

Teachers in Texas have also sent similar self-written obituaries to Gov. Greg Abbott (R) over his plans to reopen.


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