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West Des Moines school employee dies of coronavirus

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Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds laid out guidance for how public health officials will respond when students or school staff suspect they might have the coronavirus.

Des Moines Register

A special-education assistant at Indian Hills Junior High School in West Des Moines has died from complications of COVID-19.

The district announced Jennifer Crawford’s death in an email Monday. She was 53. 

“I am deeply saddened to share with you that our friend and classroom assistant, Jennifer Crawford, died today from complications of COVID-19,” Indian Hills Junior High School Principal Dr. Shane Christensen wrote.

West Des Moines Community School District spokesperson Laine Mendenhall-Buck said it was unclear when or how Crawford contracted the virus. She said Crawford had not been at work for several weeks.

“Due to community spread we cannot confirm how it was contracted,” Mendenhall-Buck said via email Monday night. “She was out of state when she fell ill.”

Mendenhall-Buck said in a statement Tuesday that Crawford had worked at Indian Hills since 2017 and has two children who graduated from West Des Moines Community Schools. She said the district will be sharing funeral information to Indian Hills staff and families once arrangements have been made. 

School board president Liz Cox said the board does not plan to have a conversation about transitioning to a different learning model following Crawford’s death. West Des Moines’ current return to learn plan allowed families to choose between either online or on-site learning at the beginning of the year.

Cox said her thoughts and prayers are with Crawford’s family. 

“The Board of Education shares in the sorrow when a student, staff, or parent dies; it is deeply felt throughout our district and community,” she said in an email.

To support those grieving, Cox said Indian Hills had two counselors and a representative from

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Des Moines leader Nancy Mwirotsi receives $10,000 grant for STEM work

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Published 5:34 a.m. CT Oct. 2, 2020

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Athletes from Ames, Hoover, North and Roosevelt speak before the DMPS March for Fairness.

Des Moines Register

Nancy Mwirotsi, founder of Pursuit of Innovation 515 (Pi515) in Des Moines, has been awarded a $10,000 Nation of Neighbors grant from Royal Neighbors of America, one of the first and largest women-led insurers in the country.

Mwirotsi is known in the area for her advocacy work on behalf of underserved women, refugees, and low-income students, the press release announcing the award stated. She will use the grant to expand her Girls Entrepreneurial Summit program that focuses on educating young women on business basics including planning, financials, marketing, and digital promotion.

“I am shocked and quite honored to have received this grant,” Mwirotsi said in the release. “It’s such a blessing to be recognized for your work.”

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Nancy Mwirotsi, founder and executive director of Pi515, speaks on Sept. 14, 2020 at Edmunds Elementary School in Des Moines. Attending speakers disapproved the model of 100% virtual instruction, instead advocating a hybrid model to better assist students with learning disabilities, language barriers, and less access to technology at home. Mwirotsi recently received a $10,000 grant for her work with Pi515. (Photo: Olivia Sun/The Register)

Pi515’s mission is to help create an inclusive culture for underserved women to learn STEM and provide them with the employment skills needed to launch them into new planes of achievement.

“Pi515 is taking on the inequity in STEM-related careers by directly addressing the pipeline. Each year, we embrace 100 students, particularly girls, from diverse backgrounds,” Mwirotsi said. “We introduce them to teachers and companies with employees who look like them, and provide role models that inspire them. We provide – at no cost – essential skills