COVID-19 takes toll on NE Arkansas school teachers, staff

COVID-19 takes toll on NE Arkansas school teachers, staff
Of the eight Arkansas public school teachers and staff who have died from the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, four were from Northeast Arkansas. (Source: CDC via CNN)

JONESBORO, Ark. (KAIT) - Since the start of the school year, the Arkansas Department of Health reports more than 2,300 Arkansas public school teachers and staff have tested positive for the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

At least 60 have been hospitalized, with 14 admitted to intensive care units and 7 placed on ventilators, according to an Oct. 30 report from the Arkansas Nonprofit News Network.

Of the eight who have died, four were from Northeast Arkansas.

All lost their lives during the month of October.

Susanne Michele Michael, who taught at Harrisburg Elementary School, died late Thursday, Oct. 1, at the age of 47.

Susanne Michael, a teacher at Harrisburg Elementary School, died of COVID-19,
Susanne Michael, a teacher at Harrisburg Elementary School, died of COVID-19, (Source: Harrisburg School District)

“My sweet Susanne went home to be with the Lord tonight about 11:30. I got to go hold her hand until her sweet heart stopped,” her husband, Keith Michael, posted on social media. “She’s all I’ve known for nearly 30 years now.”

Michael, who spent six years teaching at Weiner Elementary before transferring to Harrisburg in 2012, is survived by her husband and five children.

Two weeks later, in the early morning hours of Saturday, Oct. 17, Nettleton School District’s Athletic Director Greg Rainwater died suddenly of a heart attack. Rainwater was COVID-19 positive at the time of his death. He was 51.

Greg Rainwater was a longtime fixture in NEA HS sports. The Nettleton AD passed away Saturday morning.
Greg Rainwater was a longtime fixture in NEA HS sports. The Nettleton AD passed away Saturday morning. (Source: KAIT)

In addition to his duties as AD, girls' basketball coach, social studies teacher, and transportation director, Rainwater also served as pastor of Mt. Zion Baptist Church in Walcott.

He is survived by his wife, Tammy Smith Rainwater, and their daughter, Hannah.

The month of October ended with COVID-19 claiming two more Northeast Arkansas school and faculty lives.

Jimmy Hynum died Friday, Oct. 30, at a Little Rock hospital. He was a music teacher and band director at Palestine-Wheatley School District.

He was the state’s sixth public school employee to die of the virus since students returned to classes in August

Superintendent Jon Estes told a reporter for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette that Hynum contracted the virus around Oct. 10.

“He was well-liked, well-loved, and well-respected by everyone,” Estes was quoted as saying. “He will be crazily, crazily missed. It will be a hard hit on everyone.”

Angela Hynum shared her husband’s medical status on social media: “As I held my Love’s hand, he peacefully slipped away to be in the presence of God late yesterday afternoon.”

Jimmy Hynum was 53.

That same day, Oct. 30, Kimberly Dawn Flanery of Paragould died. She was 55 years old.

For the last 16 years Kimberly Flanery had served meals to students in the Paragould School District.
For the last 16 years Kimberly Flanery had served meals to students in the Paragould School District. (Source: Phillips Funeral Home)

For the last 16 years, she had served meals to students in the Paragould School District. She is survived by her husband, William Flanery, and their four sons and daughter.

Her son, Matt Flanery, announced her passing on social media just after 5:30 p.m. Friday.

Her brother Josh Carpenter, told Region 8 News that Kim was diagnosed with COVID earlier in the week, and passed away on Friday.

Paragould School Superintendent Debbie Smith released a statement Tuesday about Flanery, saying the long-time employee will be missed by employees and school children alike.

“The Paragould School District is saddened to announce that Kim Flanery passed away on Friday, October 30, from complications from COVID-19. She was 55 years old. Kim spent 16 years preparing meals for students and staff in the Paragould district. She loved children and had a great sense of humor and quick wit. Her daily dose of positivity and humor will be long remembered by the many children and adults she served. We loved Kim and will miss her greatly. While we cannot gather to grieve, we can, and do, pray for comfort and peace for Kim’s family, friends, and colleagues.”
Superintendent Debbie Smith, Paragould School District

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