The Iowa State Education Association says 36,000 people have signed an online petition opposing Governor Kim Reynolds’ requirement that 50% of school instruction be in-person.

Some districts planned to keep classes mostly, or completely, virtual to start the year to protect teachers and students from coronavirus. Davenport adjusted its plan so students are in-person five out of every ten days, but high school language-arts teacher Maggie Rietz says that means students will be packed in some buildings.

“Many of our classrroms are small, like my husband’s classroom that is crammed with 32 desks with only enough space to scoot in between the aisle to get to a desk,” Rietz says, “and it also has no windows and poor circulation.” Sioux City art instructor Lesa

Banks is concerned that some teachers may leave their jobs if districts can’t decide locally. “We already have positions that we haven’t been able to fill,” Banks says. “If we try to keep the class sizes down, how do we do that if there’s not enough people?” The governor’s order also lowers the requirements for substitute teachers, something the ISEA is also against.

Governor Reynolds has said she made the order requiring face-to-face classes because isolation could harm students’ academic progress and mental health. It also allows parents to choose an all virtual option.

(By Grant Gerlock, Iowa Public Radio)