A southern Iowa school district reports the state's first superintendent confirmed to have died of COVID-19

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A southern Iowa school district's superintendent has died after becoming ill with COVID-19, according to district officials.

The Mormon Trail Community School District in Humeston shared on Facebook Sunday that Superintendent Kerry Phillips "lost his battle with COVID today."

"Once a Saint, always a Saint! 💛," district officials wrote in reference to the school's mascot.

It was not immediately clear how long Phillips had been ill.

The district has 209 students in grades preschool through 12th this year, according to enrollment data from the Iowa Department of Education. According to his LinkedIn profile, Phillips had been Mormon Trail's superintendent for several years.

According to his obituary and LinkedIn profile, Phillips was an undergraduate alum of Buena Vista University and earned a master's in education from Drake University. His career in education included work for Indian Hills Community College, Simpson College and Buena Vista.

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He also taught and was a principal at the Cardinal Community School District, and worked as superintendent for the Harmony Community School District, in southeast Iowa before coming to Mormon Trail.

Phillips is not the first Iowa educator to die after battling COVID-19. According to the privately operated Iowa COVID-19 Tracker, 30 educators and school staff, including bus drivers, have died — not including Phillips — of COVID-19 since the pandemic began, although the names and ages of three were not immediately available.

According to an analysis of the tracker's database, Phillips may have been the first superintendent in Iowa to die of the disease since the virus was first reported in Iowa in March 2020.

According to a spokesperson for the Iowa State Education Association, the state's largest teachers' union, the association isn't aware of any other superintendents to have died from COVID-19 and referred reporters to the private COVID-19 Tracker for more information.

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The Mormon Trail district is about an hour's drive from Mount Ayr, another southern Iowa district hit particularly hard by the pandemic in recent weeks. Officials there announced last week that the district would not hold classes the first half of this week because of illness — including COVID-19 — within its buildings and the community.

In Wayne County, where the Mormon Trail district is located, the county hospital's walk-in clinic had to close early more than once last week "due to increased illness among our providers and staff," according to the posts on the hospital's Facebook profile.

The 14-day positivity rate in the county is 16.2%, and the 7-day rate is 21.4%, according to the Iowa Department of Public Health.

According to the state health department, 43.5% of the county's residents older than 5 are fully vaccinated; that figure compares to 63.6% of eligible Iowans fully vaccinated statewide.

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Phillip Sitter covers education for the Ames Tribune and the Des Moines Register. Reach him via email, at psitter@gannett.com, and follow him on Twitter, at @pslifeisabeauty.

This article originally appeared on Des Moines Register: Kerry Phillips, superintendent of Mormon Trail district, dies of COVID

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