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UPDATE: Oelwein elementary school student dies

UPDATE: Oelwein elementary school student dies

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OELWEIN — A tornado touched down in Oelwein Saturday, but the community’s school district took an even bigger hit the next day.

Oelwein Community Schools on Sunday announced the loss of a Wings Park Elementary student early that morning. Matthew Hampton, a third grader, died unexpectedly at his home in Hazleton.

Superintendent Josh Ehn said the cause of death is unknown.

While the Saturday evening tornado resulted in limited damage, Ehn noted that it displaced a couple families. He said Matthew’s death following so closely after the natural disaster made it especially difficult for some.

“It’s a lot for 9- and 10-year-olds to process,” said the superintendent. “It’s a lot for adults to process.”

That the frightening events are happening in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic makes them even more challenging for children to work through. Schools and their staff are often involved in that effort and the Oelwein district has procedures to follow in the case of a student death.

“What do you do when it’s during a pandemic and you’re not allowed to see other people?” asked Ehn, suggesting it is a “loss of opportunity” to provide needed assistance. “These times have been extraordinary as we try and help kids.”

A letter about Matthew’s death posted on the district’s website Sunday asked families to take on more of that role.

“In a normal situation we would be notifying students while at school and supporting them with all of our counseling resources,” it noted. “As we are all understanding our new normal during the COVID-19 pandemic we are asking each family to partner with us to help share this sad news to Matthew’s classmates, schoolmates, and friends.”

Since the community began learning about the tragedy, Ehn said there has been discussion about it on social media as well as phone calls to a school counselor hotline.

“Matthew was a special kid,” said Ehn. “He was well known in his class and in the building. The kids knew him and the staff knew him. He will be sorely missed.”

Students have been invited to send “sympathies and support to the family.” They can be reached at: Hampton Family, 1318 Lawrence Ave., Hazleton, IA 50641.

Obituaries in the Courier today, March 31, 2020

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Staff Writer

After 18-plus years reporting on local education, I’ve graduated to covering the city of Cedar Falls. Family and church commitments keep me busy outside of work along with lots of biking, rowing and skiing – pretty good for a guy with fake hips.

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