Cedar Rapids law firm helps teachers prepare living wills, healthcare documents before school year starts

Published: Aug. 9, 2020 at 10:38 PM CDT
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - For a humid Sunday morning, the scene at Bever Park in southeast Cedar Rapids was active.

Kids ran around the playground, families flew back and forth on swings, dogs and their humans played fetch — and dozens of teachers lined up around the park’s pavilion to prepare their living wills.

One of the earliest arrivals to that line was Jessica Bolar, a first-grade teacher at Cedar River Academy at Taylor in the Cedar Rapids Community School District. She said she wasn’t surprised to see so many of her fellow educators there.

“That’s why I came early because I knew this was going to be what it was going to be,” she said. “We’re all affected by this.”

A Cedar Rapids law firm, Scott Shoemaker & Associates, offered to help any school employee in Linn Count for free to prepare a living will, healthcare power of attorney, and HIPAA release before they return to the classroom this year.

“To make sure that if something happens to an individual, then they’ve empowered the people that they care about, that they’ve chosen, to make healthcare decisions on their behalf,” Scott Shoemaker, an estate planning attorney, said.

Shoemaker said around 45 teachers took him up on his offer Sunday.

They left the park with a set of documents that were notarized, witnessed, and legally enforceable.

“I think a lot of people, they just don’t think about it,” Shoemaker said. “It’s something that you hope you don’t have to worry about, and so they put it off. But it’s sort of been forced on people.”

Some of teachers who participated Sunday said they do have the usual back-to-school excitement. But this year, it’s accompanied by anxiety and nervousness, and that’s why they came to Bever Park.

Chad Miller, whose usual role as a job coach in the Cedar Rapids Community School District has shifted this year to working one-on-one in the classroom with student in special education services, said he worries about his family.

“My wife, she’s a nurse, so then if I would get it, that would then affect her as well, and my son as well,” Miller said. “So there’s a lot of moving parts to this of how you can be affected.”

Bolar, who doesn’t know yet if she’ll be assigned to virtual or in-person teaching this year, said she fears for what would happen to her students if she were to get sick.

“Who’s going to watch them? Who’s going to take care of them? And then, how do I know I didn’t give it to them, and they’re taking it home, and that’s going to devastate their lives?” she said.

Both educators said taking this precaution isn’t what they ever expected to put on their back-to-school checklists, both using the word “surreal” to describe the experience.

“If Salvador Dalí was here, he’d be painting up something very surreal for sure,” Miller said.

“Had you told me last year that this is where I would be as a 25-year-old, second-year teacher, signing up to get a will, I would’ve thought you would’ve been joking,” Bolar said.

Shoemaker, whose wife is a teacher, said he wanted to provide some peace of mind to educators and school staff as they head into an unprecedented school year.

“I’m in a position where I can help kind of take that one little thing off the plate of these individuals and allow them to focus their energy to serving students and being better teachers and employees,” he said.

Copyright 2020 KCRG. All rights reserved.

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