COVID-19 claims life of eastern Missouri teacher

JIM SALTER
Associated Press
AshLee DeMarinis is shown in an undated photo provided by her sister, Jennifer Heissenbuttel. DeMarinis, a middle school teacher in eastern Missouri's Potosi School District, died Sunday, Sept. 6, 2020, after being hospitalized for three weeks with COVID-19. DeMarinis became ill last month before kids returned to class, but had been to her classroom preparing for the school year, Heissenbuttel said.

O'FALLON — A 34-year-old Missouri teacher has died after a three-week-long hospitalization with COVID-19.

AshLee DeMarinis taught social skills and special education at John Evans Middle School in the Potosi School District in eastern Missouri. Superintendent Alex McCaul announced her death in a letter dated Sept. 7 that was posted on the district's Facebook page. The letter didn't cite a cause of death.

But DeMarinis' sister, Jennifer Heissenbuttel, said DeMarinis died Sunday of the coronavirus. Heissenbuttel said her sister had not yet begun teaching students when she became ill last month, but that she had returned to the classroom to prepare for the school year.

McCaul's letter said a district crisis intervention team will help students, staff and parents deal with the loss.

"Ms. DeMarinis was a wonderful teacher loved by students, staff and members of our community," McCaul wrote. "Her commitment and passion for her students and community to succeed should be an inspiration for all of us. Ms. DeMarinis touched many lives as an educator and will be missed dearly by our community."

DeMarinis' death is among 1,661 in Missouri since the pandemic began. As of Tuesday, Missouri had reported 95,113 confirmed cases, including 269 in Washington County, Potosi's county. Tracking from Johns Hopkins University shows that Missouri's per capita number of cases is among the six highest in the country.

Potosi is about 70 miles (115 kilometers) southwest of St. Louis. 

The Potosi district is among about three-quarters of Missouri public school districts and charter schools that have returned to in-person classes for the fall semester. The district gives students the option to attend classes virtually if they choose to do so.

Private and parochial schools also are dealing with the pandemic. Two Catholic grade schools in St. Louis County will close for two weeks after a staff member who travels between them had a presumed-positive case of COVID-19, the  St. Louis Post-Dispatch  reported.

St. Louis County health officials recommended the temporary closures. Students will attend classes virtually while the schools are cleaned, a spokeswoman for the Archdiocese of St. Louis said.