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'A Remarkable Woman'

(Editor’s Note: Shortly before press time, Janice Kneisley learned the trip was canceled due to the Corona virus. They taped the show and the winner will be announced March 26 on the Mel Robbins show. Kneisley will receive a gift goodies bag and vouchers for the airline ticket and hotel to use at some point.)

A “remarkable” Hiawatha woman has been awarded an all-expense paid trip to New York City next week for Nexstar’s Annual Woman of the Year conference.

Janice Kinsley, a special education instructor at the Hiawatha Elementary School, was chosen for this honor by KSNT Channel 27 news station in Topeka. Late last year, they offered an opportunity for people to nominate women they felt were remarkable. Kneisley’s husband, Kevin, nominated her for this honor last November.

She said he told her about it, and she said that while she didn’t really feel remarkable, she was appreciative of his nomination but went about her business – not really thinking that it would go much further.

Much to the surprise of Kneisley, who just finished radiation and chemo treatments for a stage 3 lung cancer, she was chosen as one of four Kansas finalists. KSNT came to interview her at her home and shared that she had been chosen as a finalist. Again, Kneisley didn’t think she would be “The Remarkable Woman” chosen as the finalist.

“I don’t really feel remarkable, I just got cancer,” she said again. “I couldn’t do what I’ve done without the support of my staff at the elementary school and my administrators.”

But last Friday, Kneisley was in for another surprise. KSNT’s Molly Pratt returned – this time to Hiawatha Elementary School – and informed Kneisley of her honor. She had been chosen as the finalist and will travel to New York City – leaving on St. Patrick’s Day – for the national Nexstar’s Annual Woman of the Year conference, with all the perks, and a packed 3-day itinerary that included some extensive sight-seeing. If she is announced the recipient of the national “Remarkable” Woman of the Year award, she will receive $2,500 toward the charity of her choice. The winner will be announced on the March 26 Mel Robbins Show.

“I’m kind of nervous,” she said, noting she has never visited NYC before. With concern over traveling due to the Coronavirus, she said she will possibly take extra precautions for her health, as well.

Kneisley was diagnosed with lung cancer Oct. 8 after a “cough that wouldn’t quit” for several weeks. She said it was hard to catch her breath at times. An X ray and MRI showed a tumor roughly the size of a fist. She immediately launched into numerous tests then treatment. In fact, Kneisley said her first appointment with a specialist was thought to be an outpatient visit, but she was put in the hospital for a week without warning for extensive tests.

She had six rounds of chemotherapy and 30 days of radiation. The chemo consisted of one 8-hour day, followed by two 4-hour treatments. This was repeated six times and she said the last of those was Feb. 6. Her last day of radiation treatment was Martin Luther King Day. During radiation treatment, she left Hiawatha at 6:30 a.m. daily to travel to Topeka for radiation and was back in her 1st and 2nd grade Special Education classroom by 10 a.m.

In addition to keeping up with her schedule at the elementary school – where she has worked with Brown County Interlocal Special Education for the past 9 years, 8 as a para and this past academic year as teacher – Kneisley is working towards her masters in Special Education through Fort Hays University. She is also a wife and mother to two college-age boys, Kristopher — who attends KU — and Korey — a student at K-State.

A little tired, sometimes feeling sick, Kneisley said she “powered through” each day, just taking one at a time.

“Really, the kids made my day,” she said. “It got my mind of my cancer, spending time with the students.”

Kneisley said she explained her cancer as best as she could to her young students. She told them there would be days she wouldn’t be there due to treatment, days she wouldn’t feel good and that she would lose her hair. She also said anti-bacterial gel became a normal routine in the classroom as she had to try her best to keep herself protected from germs due to a low immune system.

“The kids had lots of questions, but have adjusted really well,” she said. “They have been worried about me.”

This wasn’t Kneisley’s first encounter with cancer. Fourteen years ago she was diagnosed with Stage 1 breast cancer. She underwent radiation and chemotherapy then too, but treatment wasn’t quite as extensive and successful.

“I almost made it to 15 years of cancer free,” she said, noting that she had read that someone who has cancer and beats it has a 14 percent chance of it returning.

During that time, her young sons, along with husband, Kevin, shaved their heads to match their mother when she lost her hair during chemo.

Kneisley said that community and school support has meant everything to her. She has seven paras working under her and said they all stepped up to help cover when she couldn’t be at school. She said she really hasn’t missed a lot of school, considering. She missed during each round of chemo and a couple days when her blood counts were very low. She said there were a few times she had to wear a mask to school, as chemo made her immune system very low.

She also credits the administration – school Principal Paul Carver, along with Special Education Director Becky Shamburg and school psychologist Lisa Pierce – for their support.

Shamburg said she is very excited for Kneisley to have received this award.

“I am so excited for Janice – she truly is a remarkable woman,” Shamburg said. “Throughout this whole process of her cancer treatment, she has always put her students first. I know there were days she probably should have stayed home. She would tell me she needs to be at work because her students are good for her soul. I really don’t think there is anyone that I know who is more deserving of this award.”

Kneisley said she also wanted to recognize Brown County HOPE – an organization that helped provide financial assistance during her time of travel and treatment. In addition, she said the Muscotah Cancer Group was very supportive and she was also thankful to second grade teacher Ashlynn Riley, who created a “food train” to make sure Kneisley and her husband had hot meals ready for them each night.

Kneisley is very humble and said she loves her days with the students. They made her forget about the cancer. After recent scans, Kneisley received a good report that the tumor has shrunk significantly in size. Due to the type of cancer this was – it typically shows up first in the brain – Kneisley will have to start precautionary radiation on her brain at the end of the month. She will also continue to have scans to monitor the lung tumor.

It’s one more step in dealing with the big “C” word, but Kneisley said she will work through it just like everything else. She doesn’t feel there is anything remarkable about that at all. She just does what she has to.

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Local health officials provide update regarding Coronavirus (COVID-19)

As news of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) continue to spread, along with concerns of the disease, local health officials want residents to know they are taking precautions and evaluating possible local impact.

NEK Multi-County Health Department, Doniphan County Health Department, Hiawatha Community Hospital and Family Practice Clinics and EMS providers are working together to meet the needs of the community. We are taking precautions in regards to Coronavirus (COVID-19) and its potential impact in the area. Hiawatha Community Hospital and Family Practice Clinics are monitoring the spread and collaborating with KDHE and the local health departments to properly identify and treat patients, as appropriate.

According to a news release from the Hiawatha Community Hospital, there have been no confirmed or suspected cases at HCH. Visitor restrictions, previously implemented in preparation for influenza season, remain in effect. Patients requiring assistance or pediatric patients are permitted to have one guest present in the hospital. These restrictions will be in effect until further notice. Extenuating circumstances do arise, and those restrictions will be evaluated on an individual basis by the patient’s primary nurse in conjunction with the Infection Prevention Coordinator.

Unless here to receive care, you are asked not to visit if you are experiencing respiratory symptoms including but not limited to: cough, fever greater than or equal to 100.4, sneezing, or runny nose. Children under the age of 12 will not be allowed unless receiving care in the hospital and/or clinics.

A travel screening is being conducted on all patients presenting to the hospital and clinics. HCH recommends that if you feel you are experiencing symptoms consistent with COVID-19 and have recently traveled to Iran, Italy, China, South Korea, or Japan and developed fever with lower respiratory symptoms including cough and shortness of breath, within 14 days of your travel, or have had contact with someone with a laboratory-confirmed case of COVID-19, stay home and call your healthcare provider BEFORE going to the hospital, clinics, or emergency room. The Family Practice Clinic can be reached at (785) 742-2161 and Hiawatha Community Hospital at (785) 742-2131. For additional resources and answers to frequently asked questions regarding COVID-19, please visit: (KDHE/ Kansas Department of Health and Environment) (CDC/ Center for Disease Control and Prevention)

We can all protect our own health as well as the health of our family and community by following the CDC recommendations for the following actions:

Avoid close contact with people who are sick.

Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.

Stay home from school, work, social events, etc. when you are sick.

Covering your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throwing the tissue in the trash.

Wash your hands often, using either soap and water or alcohol-based hand gel for at least 20 seconds.

Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces such as doorknobs, handles, light switches, faucets, remotes, cell phones, etc.

Please visit Hiawatha Community Hospital and Family Practice Clinics Facebook page for more information and FAQ’s. We are committed to keeping you updated and informed.

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Rosa' resigns from Hiawatha School Board

The USD 415 School Board met on Monday evening, and it was announced at the meeting that long-standing board member Dr. Pete Rosa’ would be stepping down from the board as of the May 11 board meeting.

Rosa stated that the decision comes as he and his wife plan to move into the next chapter of their lives. Superintendent Lonnie Moser explained that once Rosa’s resignation becomes official at the May meeting, the board will then advertise for applications, interview applicants and likely appoint a replacement to fulfill Rosa’s term at the June 8 meeting. Rosa’s term is set to expire in January of 2020.

Also at Monday night’s meeting, the board voted to approve several bids for facilities improvements, including a bid of $19,623.50 for installation of a new sound system at the football field. Lanham Music of St. Joseph, Mo., will perform the work, and the total price of the project may end up cheaper if current wiring to speakers is usable.

Also approved was an estimate from Four State Maintenance Supply of $17,121.60 to sand, recoat and stain the HMS gym floor, with an additional bid of $4,999 from Triple T to paint lines and a logo on the court. Four State Maintanance also won the bid to refinish the HHS and armory gym floors at a cost of $4,297.36. District Maintenance Coordinator Matt Cluck asked for and received clearance for up to $20,000 each for concrete work at the bus barn, HES and HMS.

District curriculum director Jean Brintnall and Moser led a presentation on the MTSS process, detailing the progress of the program through this point in year two, as well as the next phase. The Multi-Tier System of Supports and Alignment is essentially a new district-wide method of academic and non-academic assessment, intervention and data-collection.

Moser informed the board that the district’s current food service vendor, Thrive, is getting out of the business. The board then voted to submit a Request for Proposal to potential vendors. Also approved were a pair of courses in Teaching Internship and Early Childhood Applications that will re-open a pathway that was not available this year due to staffing changes.

The board also heard a letter from Hiawatha Police Department Captain Dennis Entrikin. The letter was very complimentary in reference to a recent crisis drill at HES, and expressed gratitude to the teachers and staff at HES for their work with the students.

The board accepted the resignation of Kathy Lindstrom as a sophomore class sponsor, and also accepted the resignation of 6th grade Social Studies teacher Diana Bray, and approved the hiring of Jackie Reneberg as an HES teacher.

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City employees get familiar with ALICE

City employees became familiar with ALICE during a two-day training last week.

ALICE is an active intruder training that offers several options for survival. ALICE stands for Alert-Lockdown-Inform-Counter-Evacuate and offers training in dealing with armed intruders in schools, churches and other public places.

Hiawatha Police Cpt. Dennis Entrkin, along with officer Brandon Lowe, led the training in a two-day session that involved 32 people. Sessions were conducted at the First Baptist Church and Hiawatha City Hall and included presentations, demonstrations and live scenario training to let the participants feel what it would be like if an armed intruder invaded their work space.

Some of the presentations provided information on school shootings such as West Virginia Tech (2007), Sandy Nook Elementary (2012) and Columbine (1999). In each of these situations, people responded differently. In those days, Entrikin said everyone was taught “lockdown,” but many people were just sitting ducks for gunmen.

For instance, at West Virginia Tech, the shooter hit six classrooms where students and teachers were in “lockdown.” Entrikin said one particular classroom, students decided to evacuate out an upper story window and the teacher charged the gunman when he entered. In this particular instance, the teacher was the only casualty.

“Several sustained injury by jumping out of the window, but they lived,” he said. “In the other classrooms, where people were just on lockdown, there were many casualties.”

Sometimes lockdown is the choice that makes the most sense.

“Lockdown was the traditional response, designed for drive-by shootings in California,” Entrikin said. “Yes, it’s a perfect response if someone is firing rounds into a building through windows.”

But, he pointed out, people need to be trained there are other choices. When ALICE came about and the “Run, Hide or Fight” method began being introduced in various work places, these both gave people a fighting chance.

He said it’s kind of like the fire drills and tornado drills that have been taught for decades.

“We all know what to do for those drills,” he said. “It’s about changing that mentality and getting rid of the thought that lockdown is the only thing to do.”

Entrikin said it changes survival rates and gives people a fighting chance.

During the series of five scenarios, Entrikin and Lowe advised on several ways to handle each situation. The first, the shooter walked in and everyone sat there like sitting ducks and took the bullets — from a nerf gun in this instance. Another scenario had people barricading the door, which successfully kept the gunman out of the room.

In other scenarios, gunmen entered the main floor of City Hall and began shooting inside the office area. The gunman also ventured upstairs to the commission room, and city employees took flight.

In some of the scenarios, people were hit by bullets. In others — where they took flight — only a stray bullet or two met its target. When the people barricaded the door, everyone came out safe and sound.

Entrikin and Lowe provided this intensive training for the Hiawatha school staff in August of 2018 and he hopes to offer additional training for the public by early summer, as another officer — Dugan Shoemaker — will be a certified trainer soon. Entrikin said this allows for more training for the Hiawatha community. He said he will probably open up to 50 spots per training and fill those on a case by case basis as community members contact him.

He said watch for more news soon on the public trainings, or contact him at the police department at 742-2156 for more information on ALICE.

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Shed destroyed in fire Friday

Black smoke dotted the horizon on Friday afternoon.

Upon closer inspection, it was revealed this was not a grass fire — but a structure near the Hiawatha Middle School.

Hiawatha Fire Department Public Information Officer Jordanne Shockley said the page came at 4:35 p.m. to a shed on fire at 120 E. Iowa St.

She said that firefighters saw upon arrival the structure was fully engulfed. She said crews worked quickly to extinguish. Before long, what was black smoke became large amounts of white and gray smoke as the flames were extinguished.

Shockley said no other information is being released at this time.

Responding agencies assisting Hiawatha Fire Department were Robinson Fire, Brown County Rescue Squad, Brown County Sheriffs Department, Town & Country EMS and Hiawatha PD.