Teachers sending own obituaries to governor in protest of school reopenings

Teachers in Iowa are penning their own obituaries and sending them to Gov. Kim Reynolds after she announced last week that schools must hold at least 50 percent of classes in-person amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Reynold’s “Return to Learn” proclamation allows school districts to hold primarily online classes but only in certain situations, such as parental request or public health conditions. The move has concerned teachers and parents who say safety precautions are insufficient and a return to classrooms will endanger children, educators and families.

Some teachers are now writing their own obituaries to send a message to Reynolds.

“I have prepared my obituary and am sending it to Gov. Kim Reynolds to express my concern regarding the absence of a statewide mask mandate for our schools,” Jeremy Dumkreiger, a Sioux City educator, wrote in an op-ed published in the Iowa Starting Line.

Reynolds' decision Friday invalidated plans implemented by some districts to limit in-person classes to one day a week for most students with online learning on other days. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall, File)

His obit reads, in part: “Jeremy Dumkrieger, 43, passed away on [insert Date here] due to complications arising from COVID-19. He died alone, isolated from the family who meant the world to him.”

Dumkrieger, who has been an art teacher for about six years, called on other teachers to also protest reopening schools without further precautions, by crafting their own obituaries.

He is asking the Iowa Department of Education to mandate face coverings for schools statewide before classes resume in the fall. The department did not recommend masks in previous guidelines, WHO-TV reported.

Reynolds issued the proclamation Friday, the same day that the state reported a daily record of 879 new positive coronavirus cases, according to the Des Moines Register.

"Iowa's approach to returning to school must be based on what's in the best interest of students and families," Reynolds said. "We've heard from hundreds of Iowa parents who want their children to return to a structured, safe and enriching academic environment."

Reynolds said state officials are studying trends in coronavirus infection rates to determine when schools would have to switch to online-only learning.