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Iowa teachers write and send their own obituaries to governor ahead of fall reopenings

Iowa teachers are sending mock obituaries to Iowa Gov. Kimberly Reynolds (R) in hopes she will reconsider her school plans for the fall, ABC News reported Thursday.

The movement started after art teacher Jeremy Dumkreiger, who helped start the Facebook group Iowa Educators for a Safe Return to School, shared his self-authored obituary in an op-ed for the local news blog Iowa Starting Line. In the July 16 post, Dumkreiger called on other teachers to write their obituaries to "demand Gov. Reynolds declare a statewide school mask mandate."

"If we do not require this mask mandate, we risk the chance of driving our teachers and schools into the ground, literally," he wrote.

The movement has since evolved, with several educators now writing their own obits in hopes of Reynolds providing more guidance on reopening schools.

"I think what we were trying to do is humanize us in her mind, make her see us as people," Kerry Finley, a 7th grade teacher in Iowa City, told ABC's "Good Morning America."

Reynolds provided guidance at a press conference Thursday. She said the state will be providing personal protective equipment to schools for an initial 30 days.

She added that the Iowa Department of Education will be releasing guidance for schools in the event that someone at a school is infected with the virus.

"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."

Some educators still find that guidance insufficient.

Emily Tinsman, a music teacher in Des Moines Public Schools, said that while the guidance might be helpful for counties with small case counts, it won't be adequate for larger, more densely populated counties like the one where she works.

"My school has nearly 800 students and as a fine arts teacher, I will see over 300 students over a two day period," Tinsman told The Hill after Reynolds's press conference. "If I contract the virus, I've exposed over 300 students. It's hard to understand her guidance as she's not a health professional or an educator surrounded by hundreds of students every day."

There are more than 43,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Iowa, with 854 deaths, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

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