Iowans are working together to safely reopen our schools, for everybody's benefit

July 29, 2020

Des Moines Register, Joe Murphy

The Iowa Business Council recognizes the enormous commitment to student achievement, health, and safety that has been exhibited by teachers, school administrators, and districts across the state as schools prepare for the 2020-21 academic year.

The Business Council reaffirms its dedication and commitment to K-12 institutions and the need for students to safely and physically return to school. In-person learning is critical to students’ social and academic development as cited by numerous experts including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Without a return to in-person learning, and the safeguards and services our educational institutions provide, disparities among educational achievement will widen and opportunities will be lost for an entire generation of Iowa schoolchildren. Our state has and will continue to benefit from the deep commitment of our business and educational leaders to prepare our younger population for successful careers, right here in Iowa. It is this same commitment we must now use to work together to meet the challenge for a successful return to school.

Educating our K-12 student population is an absolute essential service. Iowans have the ability, pragmatism, and deference to make in-person learning work safely for teachers, parents, and most importantly, the students. Let’s embrace this challenge by employing science, accommodating individual health needs, using technology, and being civil and respectful in the process. The Iowa Business Council further recognizes the importance of flexibility for school districts to make real-time decisions as new information emerges. In consultation with public health officials, school districts should be afforded the ability to tailor their approaches based on conditions within their communities.

We should also employ evidenced-based strategies to lower the risk and stop the spread of the virus in schools. Guidance on facial coverings, physical distancing, hand sanitizing stations, and other science-based strategies should be adopted to keep all involved healthy and safe.

The council further recognizes the countless examples from across Iowa of parents and guardians balancing their work life with child care and educating their children at home. Simply put, if students are not able to return to school, parents and guardians cannot fully return to work, and our economy will continue to suffer.    

Never before has Iowa's economic health been so intricately tied to the health and well-being of Iowa's population. We can all make a difference in stopping the spread of COVID-19. The Iowa Business Council strongly urges Iowans to wear facial coverings, be physically distant, and avoid crowded areas where social distancing is not possible. It is our collective responsibility in schools, at home, and in public settings to take ownership of the safety precautions to reduce the transmission of the virus. Working together, we can overcome this, or any other challenge, and work toward a healthy and vibrant Iowa.

Joe Murphy is the executive director of the Iowa Business Council. In this role, he leads an organization comprised of CEOs and top executives from the 22 largest employers in Iowa. The Iowa Business Council serves as a catalyst to elevate Iowa’s long-term economic vitality through global thought leadership, research, and advocacy.


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