West Des Moines school employee dies of coronavirus


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 Employee and Family Resources on site Tuesday as well as additional substitute teachers to offer relief and assistance. There were also counselors at Valley Southwoods Freshman High School for students who interacted with Crawford during the 2019-20 school year.

“We are thankful for the resources available to support and comfort those closest to Jennifer … those who knew her, worked with her or had the privilege of having her assist them as a student or partner with them in their student’s education as a family,” Cox said.

More: Des Moines teacher has died from COVID-19, district confirms

Jean Hessburg, a spokesperson with the Iowa State Education Association, said the organization has resources for teachers who reach out for any reason but does not have a specific system in place regarding the death of an educator due to complications from COVID-19.

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the district asks that cards and letters of condolence be sent to the school, and they will be passed along to Crawford’s family.

At 10 a.m. Tuesday, the state was reporting 1,399 COVID-19-related deaths, an increase of 11 deaths since the state’s tally at 10 a.m. Monday, according to the state’s coronavirus.Iowa.gov website.

More: Des Moines teachers consider resigning instead of returning to schools while COVID-19 cases rise

The state also reported Tuesday that there are 93,423 confirmed cases of coronavirus, an increase of 522 since 10 a.m. Monday. Of the 93,423 people who have tested positive, 72,173 have recovered, according to the state.

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