This movement began when art teacher Jeremy Dumkreiger, who has organized a Facebook group called the Iowa Educators for a Safe Return to School, wrote a self-authored obituary for the local news blog Iowa Starting Line.
In it, Dumkreiger demanded that Reynolds “declare a statewide school mask mandate,” and pass other coronavirus-related restrictions, if she hopes to reopen Iowa’s schools.
“If we do not require this mask mandate, we risk the chance of driving our teachers and schools into the ground, literally,” he wrote, while urging other teachers to write their obituaries as well.
Dozens of teachers across the state followed suit.
Kerry Finley, a 7th grade teacher in Iowa City, said she hopes the obituaries will “humanize” teachers and “make [Reynolds] see us as people,” according to ABC News.
“I’m very scared,” Finley said. “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.'”
But there is no reason teachers can’t return to school and do so safely, said Reynolds.
As long as students and teachers follow the guidance soon to be released by the Iowa Department of Education, the reopening should go smoothly, she said.
Teachers shouldn’t think of keeping schools closed as an option, Reynolds added.
“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.”