Guest Columnist

Opinion: Make protecting our teachers, students a priority

HS journalism: Kennedy senior pleads for help from Gov. Kim Reynolds

Shawn Thomsen, facilitator at Kennedy High School, disinfects a desk to help protect students and staff from the ongoing
Shawn Thomsen, facilitator at Kennedy High School, disinfects a desk to help protect students and staff from the ongoing threat of illness. (Lizzie Hawkes/Kennedy HS)

CEDAR RAPIDS — Hardship after hardship has slammed Cedar Rapids schools since the beginning of 2020.

The pandemic has changed the way we live and the derecho destroyed a large part of our community. A healthy and safe environment is difficult to achieve without support.

Gov. Kim Reynolds, we need assistance and we need it now.

Teachers were thrown into a foreign environment with just a few months notice and had to restructure their familiar lesson plans for the online setting. Now all schools have shifted to hybrid instruction and the risk of exposure is high.

COVID-19 infection rates have increased since schools reopened. While schools still are adapting to social distancing and wearing masks, Reynolds is moving on. Recently, she signed a law requiring all schools in Iowa to offer 100 percent in-person learning options by Feb. 15.

“It’s time to put local control into the hands of parents, where it belongs so that they can choose what’s best for their children,” Reynolds said when her new proclamation was announced.

In response to the upcoming change, Cedar Rapids and Marion schools’ superintendents signed a letter to Reynolds requesting her and her team to reallocate vaccines to protect our teachers.

“We urge you to place full priority on protecting our preK-12 school students, their families and our staff by reallocating these additional doses to immediately vaccinate school staff across the state,” the Cedar Rapids and Marion schools’ superintendents stated.

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Forcing schools to increase the number of students within the building, but not providing protection for staff shows the lack of concern people in power have for our teachers. Teachers are at the forefront of the future, responsible for educating and preparing the youth for years to come. Yet, the disrespect they are shown does not reflect their importance.

“Since last March, school staff have been at the cornerstone of Iowa communities and our response to this global pandemic,” the letter stated. “All school staff members deserve the ability to be vaccinated before being required by law to return to circumstances in which CDC-recommended social distancing cannot possibly be implemented.”

Only days after the letter was sent, Reynolds updated her previous COVID-19 restrictions. The changes include lifting the mask mandate, business restrictions and gathering limitations despite the fact Iowa has been inefficient in distributing vaccinations in relation to other states.

Teachers are worried about how to stay safe in their own classrooms and Reynolds is prepared to increase that risk dramatically despite the fact Iowa is ranked eighth in the number of cases per 100,000 people.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, Reynolds has been hesitant to pass restrictions to prevent the spread of the coronavirus and it is clear she intends to continue that trend. With lifted mandates and restrictions, increasing cases and death counts are sure to arrive, affecting our entire community.

Aid is needed now, but it seems the protection of teachers and schools is not a priority. Rather than work to vaccinate our teachers, Reynolds pushed the agenda that the end of COVID-19 is near. The end is not near.

As things stand, it is impossible to fulfill the new 100 percent in-person requirement while protecting the life and livelihoods of students and staff. I want to be able to attend college and have a future. My teachers have family and friends they need to take care of.

Between these decisions and the recently passed voucher bill, which takes money from public schools and gives it to charter schools I have to ask: Gov. Reynolds, why do you hate public schools?

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Students, parents and teachers have been pleading for help and yet you remain unchanged. Protect our teachers. It is the least you can do.

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