Guest Columnist

Opening schools at what cost, Gov. Reynolds?

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds arrives to update the state's response to the coronavirus outbreak during a news conference, Tues
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds arrives to update the state's response to the coronavirus outbreak during a news conference, Tuesday, July 7, 2020, in Urbandale, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

As a retired elementary school counselor, I strongly disagree Gov. Kim Reynolds’ mandate of on-campus education with coronavirus numbers rising in our state. Let me give you a view of what this will look like in schools.

1. The number one mental health issue with children today is anxiety. Kids know what’s going on with COVID-19, thus increasing their anxieties. School refusal will become more of a problem than it already is within the population of anxious students.

2. Already overburdened staff pre-COVID will have more preventive steps to take in addition to getting in the required minutes of academic time. Think: Putting boots on young students in winter is a seasonal problem. It takes so much time! With COVID-19, making sure students keep their hands washed, noses wiped, and masks on all the time; that, along with constantly keeping surfaces clean, will exponentially consume much more teachers’ time and still more academic minutes will be subtracted from school until the virus is over.

3. The already paltry school funding will be further diminished by spending money for COVID-19 protection (i.e.) shields for the secretaries’ desks, hand sanitizer, PPEs, air purifiers, and much more. Yes, I know there has been some funding, but I doubt it’s enough. We still don’t know what we don’t know about COVID-19.

4. Students and staff will die or become sick or disabled for a long time or permanently. Do you realize what this does to a school? Whenever a student or staff member dies, the whole school is affected. Grief counseling is necessary for the time it takes to become learning ready again. There simply won’t be enough personnel available from the AEA Crisis Teams to take this on.

5. Substitute teachers will be in very short supply; lowering the qualifications for substitutes is not what’s in students’ best interests. In fact, it’s academically unsound and potentially dangerous.

6. There will be teacher burnout. Each year more teachers drop out from the jobs they love, because of unsupported mandates, lack of supplies and money and unachievable expectations that make joy in this career untenable. There will be yet more teacher dropouts this year. The governor says that educators are essential workers. Indeed they are, but they are not babysitters to ensure mom and dad get to work. That’s not their function. They are to teach. There is no more blood in the turnip, governor.

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7. Experienced teachers will opt out, especially those who are 60 and beyond. An un-mentored teaching force is not the best Iowa can offer students. Part of new teacher growth comes from having an experienced mentor. We haven’t been No. 1 for a long time now, governor, have we? We will further descend the ladder.

Your mandate is unreasonable and perplexing, especially since it’s incongruent with the medical profession’s recommendations. In fact, it seems to be a political action, instead of interest in students’ education.

You want students in school. At what cost, governor?

At what cost? You will be forever in debt for the death and disabilities arising from your mandate.

Jane Pech Balvanz lives in Iowa City.

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