By Aug. 1, Aldi, Costco, CVS, Home Depot, Kohl’s, Menards, Target, Walgreens, and Walmart will have public health measures in place, including mask requirements, to protect customer’s health and reduce their chance of transmitting the coronavirus while shopping. City, county and state office buildings across Iowa have similar measures in place. The trend toward evidence-based best public health practices extends to higher education and countless workplaces.
It’s unclear whether this trend will be inclusive of Iowa’s K-12 students and families. School districts in Des Moines, Ankeny, and others, have shown leadership in protecting the health of their communities by implementing hybrid learning models to lower building capacity. Others are putting fewer protective measures in place for their students and families than Walmart and Menards are for their customers.
Concern for students and families, late-night conversations with spouses about life insurance and wills, balancing a passion for teaching with the needs of a high-risk loved one, and trying to plan for teaching in an ever-shifting landscape are the foundations for a growing movement of educators advocating for a safer return to school. On July 24, teachers and their allies from across Iowa gathered to demonstrate in support of school districts taking strong stands for the safety of students and staff.
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We call for Gov. Kim Reynolds to restore local control and rescind her July 17 proclamation. We expect school districts to take reasonable public health measures. We’re committed to continue advocating for the health of our communities. Our drive was endorsed by the state teachers association, and leaders including state Sen. Claire Celsi and U.S. Senate candidate Theresa Greenfield. Also, 59 faculty from teacher education programs in our state signed letters of support for our goals.
In addition to the efforts of educators, thousands of physicians are building their movement and calling for greater leadership from Reynolds to control community spread of COVID-19. These are the experts. If the experts are concerned, we should be too.
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Terrace Hill has implemented the following measures to protect visitor safety: Each tour is limited to six guests; it is highly suggested that visitors bring a mask; tour guides are required to wear masks; a distance of 6 feet should be maintained between the tour guide and tour group; any visitor who feels sick must stay home; and Terrace Hill staff will clean and disinfect tour spaces between every tour time.
Extending those same protections to Iowa’s K-12 students, families, and teachers would be a step in the right direction.
Dan Gutmann is a special education teacher for kindergarten to second grade and the founder of Drive for Lives Iowa.