ICYMI: Rita Hart Op-Ed makes the case for prioritizing re-opening schools, safely
“The decisions that are made in the next few weeks will have real impacts on students and families that then affect the entire community. We deserve leadership that helps us find solutions.”
Yesterday, the Des Moines Register published an op-ed from Rita about the need to prioritize re-opening Iowa schools safely. Rita spent 20 years teaching in small, rural schools in Cedar and Clinton counties. Communities like hers are coming together to figure out what their parents, students, and teachers need. It is time Washington acted as a partner.
From the Op-Ed
“First, we have to recognize there is not a one-size-fits-all solution to this problem. The right solution for Iowa City might not be the right solution for Ottumwa, which won’t be the right solution for Calamus-Wheatland. Rates of infection and risk factors vary from district to district. Every district and community needs to be able to make the right decisions for their parents and students.
Second, it should be a priority to safely reopen schools as quickly as possible. There are real costs in student learning and achievement. Teachers and parents all understand that summer break has an effect on student retention. This year, that time away from the classroom has been even longer. Online learning has great potential, but it will never replace in-place instruction for all students. Returning students to the classroom obviously has serious ramifications for every family’s work schedule. The hybrid or online models will mean real chaos for families like my daughters’ who are trying to find child care.
All of this means we must take more serious efforts to limit community spread. We should prioritize putting in place mitigation efforts that get positive rates down to levels where spread can be traced and contained. These might mean prioritizing opening schools over having bars at 100% capacity or other common-sense restrictions. Prioritizing reopening schools means we must be open to other mitigation measures.
Finally, we must have safety measures in place so that schools can stay open once they re-open. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has put forth clear recommendations on how to limit spread of the virus in schools. It is positive that children seem to have some natural resistance, but as any teacher or parent who has lived through a cold and flu season can attest, illness tends to spread quickly in classrooms. Teachers and administrators should be empowered to determine when face coverings are appropriate, regular handwashing should be mandatory, and schools should be stocked with hand sanitizer. This is not an exhaustive list, but just a few recommendations. For more, go to the CDC’s page of recommendations.
All of this is why I am so disappointed in the lack of leadership from powerful people in Washington and Des Moines.”
Rita Hart is a lifelong Iowan, farmer, and 20-year educator running for Iowa’s 2nd Congressional district. A graduate of North Iowa Area Community College and the University of Northern Iowa, Rita taught in the Calamus-Wheatland and Bennett Community school districts. After leaving the classroom, she led programs that facilitated career pathway opportunities for students with local businesses and served as an active volunteer in her eastern Iowa community. Rita is also a former member of the Iowa Senate where she represented a swing district and worked with both parties to deliver results for hard working Iowa families, small businesses, and farms. Rita and her husband Paul have five grown children. She and Paul live on their family corn and soybean farm near Wheatland, which they’ve owned and operated since 1986.