Kansas Schools will no longer notify students' parents of exposure to COVID-19 for 30 days

COLUMBUS, Kans. — Contact tracing is changing for school districts across the state of Kansas.

Both the Kansas Department of Health and Environment and the Kansas Department of Education are supporting districts imposing a 30-day contact tracing suspension.

This week, Riverton, Galena, and Columbus announced they will no longer notify parents or guardians of students who have been exposed to someone testing positive for COVID-19.

Officials say if you believe a child has been exposed to a positive case, to contact the school to come up with a plan.

“A lot of schools do not have the staff to test everyone who’s been a close contact, and so they’re trying to get us to focus on positive cases and symptomatic students,” said Allie Crain, USD493 School Nurse.

Once the 30-day suspension is over, which will be the third week of February, school districts will wait for recommendations from the state on whether to extend it.


Jasper Co. Health Dept. changes COVID-19 protocol

CARTHAGE, Mo. — An area county is changing its protocols when it comes to COVID positive residents. They say they have no choice in the matter.

To say the Jasper County Health Department is overrun with COVID positive test results is an understatement according to Administrator Tony Moehr.

He compares this month last year to the new year.

“The highest time in the past was January of last year where we’re having 75 cases a day, as of yesterday we’re having 145 cases a day,” said Moehr.

But trying to track down residents who have tested positive through phone calls, as well as all the people they’ve been in contact with, was taking too much time and employee resources with the number of cases rising so fast.

“We had been making phone calls and doing interviews and contact tracing and all that and then sending out isolation recommendations and quarantine recommendations, we just can’t keep up with that.”

Now residents will get an email with their diagnosis information as well as directing them to a website so they can answer questions on their own.

For someone who has tested COVID positive in Jasper County, this is the 3rd step in the process, you’ll receive this sheet of information by e-mail, and if that’s not possible, you’ll get it through the mail.

“Based on the information they provide us, it will determine what dates they should consider isolation and we will email that to them so they have that for their records or if their employer needs it or school or anyone like that needs it for their records,” added Moehr.

Through this new system, he says residents get the information they need quicker than before and at the same time, takes some of the strain off health department staff, because COVID isn’t the only illness they’re tracking.


Neosho Schools adopt student-custodian program

NEOSHO, Mo. — An area school system may have come up with a way to solve two problems at once.

Like many school districts, Neosho needs more building custodians, and many district students need part-time jobs.

A new program may solve both of those problems at the same time, by turning students into custodians.

Assistant Superintendent of Operations, Richie Fretwell says Neosho has been short of up to six custodians in the last year. So the district contacted some others that have already implemented a student-custodian program to see if it could work in Neosho.

He explains what type of candidates he’s looking for.

“You know, our qualifications are they must be a Neosho public school student right now. They must be 16 years old, they must have a GPA of 2 point or higher, they must have reliable transportation, and be a self starter and be able to be supervised by adult,” said Fretwell.

Fretwell says some students have already applied for the positions. He says the district will be flexible as far as the student’s hours, but he says most will probably start almost as soon as classes let out in the afternoon.

Starting pay is $11.15 an hour.


MSSU is educating students on how to care for the elderly

JOPLIN, Mo. — An event on Missouri Southern’s campus today aims at advocating for someone who might not be able to speak for themself.

The Social Work Department at MSSU hosted an Elder Care Boot Camp workshop on Friday.

The event helped educate students on how to navigate the Elder Care System, how to recognize the signs of elder abuse and neglect, and how to report it. The goal is for current and future social workers to pass along that information to help educate family members.

“What is needed in Elder Care, what are some legal aspects, what are health aspects, what are ethical aspects, just so we can improve the well being of elders in our community,” said Jannette Eldred, MSSU Social Work Dept. Chair.

In addition to social workers, the event included a representative of the legal community, as well as local mental health professionals.


Brothers facing kidnapping and rape charges after Jasper Co. Sheriff’s Detectives investigation

JASPER COUNTY, Mo. — Sheriff Randee Kaiser releases details on an investigation Friday that revealed teen girls were victims of kidnapping and rape.

And two brothers are arrested and facing charges.

Jasper County Deputies responded to a check on the welfare of a 13 year-old female juvenile who was reported missing out of East Prairie, Missouri. During the investigation, it was found that 19 year-old, Grant Henson had drove 5 hours to East Prairie, Missouri.”

East Prairie is a small town SE of Sikeston, Mo. Sheriff Kaiser said Grant Henson traveled there and picked up a 13-year-old girl and drove her back to Jasper County to his residence located at 4183 W. Cactus Lane in Joplin.

Sheriff Kaiser continues, “she was held against her will and sexually assaulted.”

Grant Henson was arrested and charges were filed by the Jasper County Prosecutor’s Office:

  • Kidnapping 1st
  • Sodomy 1st
  • No bond hold

Additionally as the investigation unfolded, Bryan Henson, 22, at the Cactus Lane residence was found be with a 16-year-old female juvenile.

Bryan Henson was arrested and the following charges were filed:

  • Statutory Rape 2nd
  • Being held on $100,000 bond

This is a developing story and more information will be updated as it becomes available from authorities.


House fire NE of Carthage on Old 66 Blvd

JASPER COUNTY, Mo. — Just after noon Saturday Jasper County Emergency 911 were alerted to a structure fire just south of CR120 and MO-96 along Old 66 Blvd.

Carthage Fire, Mercy Ambulance and Avilla Fire as mutual aid responded. Jasper County Sheriff’s Deputies assisted. 

Jasper County Sheriff’s Deputies tell us on scene everyone was out of the residence safely at 12130 Old 66 Blvd, NE of Carthage.

KOAM reporter Shannon Becker live! from scene. Click here to view live! video on Joplin News First.

Carthage Fire cleared the scene and returned to quarters at 2:55 p.m.

We will update this article with additional information from authorities.


Join the Community Action Group: Joplin Area Stolen Items

“Near 25th street and took off past Taco Bell after, keep your eyes peeled.”  — Contact Joplin Police

JOPLIN, Mo. The Joplin Area Stolen Items page exists to make the sale of stolen items as difficult as possible, also to assist police in the recovery of stolen items.

By sharing posts it enables the community to do the work identifying individuals or locating items.


  • WHAT was stolen
  • WHERE it was stolen from
  • WHAT occurred when stolen
  • WHAT police dept have you reported
  • PHOTO If you don’t have a pic of what was stolen, google image search, something that looks similar, post that and say, it looks similar to … This group is a community action group created and sponsored by @JoplinNewsFirst

The stolen item needs to be reported to a police agency before they are posted in the group.

Do you have security footage? Please post footage/pics.

UPDATES: If something is recovered or there are updates on your items stolen please update our original post in a timely manner.


MSSU hosts elder care “boot camp”

JOPLIN, Mo. – Four Staters learned about elder care at Missouri Southern, thanks to elder care “boot camp.”  Participants learned about elder care and related issues, like legal considerations and how to recognize elder abuse and neglect.

“Working with social workers is really encouraging to me,” says Christopher Dumm, an elder law attorney.  “I’m excited about that because from a legal standpoint, we are dealing with legal strategies, and working with social workers allows us to also increase the impact we have on a human and family connection.”


Joplin Police K9 apprehends construction site Burglary suspect

JOPLIN, Mo. — Thursday night about 11:00 pm a Joplin Police patrolman located a suspicious vehicle, unoccupied and parked near a residential construction site near Coyote Drive and Concord Ln in Joplin.

The officer checked the construction site and ascertained that there was someone inside the residence actively moving and going through items. Additional back up officers arrived to assist.

As officers were about to make contact, the suspect exited out of window. Officers gave the suspect commands to stop, however he attempted to flee on foot towards his vehicle. The suspect was apprehended by a Joplin Police K-9 and was taken into custody.” — Capt William Davis

The suspect identified as Daniel B. Banks, 36, of Joplin. Banks was found to have a backpack and several items in his possession that are commonly associated with burglary tools.

Banks was taken to a local hospital for treatment to his injuries from the K9 apprehension and then transported to the Joplin City Jail.

The Newton County Prosecutors Office has filed charges against Banks:

  • Burglary 2nd Degree
  • Resisting Arrest
  • Possession of Burglary Tools
  • Bond set at $3,500

We will update this article with additional information as it released by authorities.


“Make-a-Wish” helps 5 year old Neosho boy’s wish come true

NEOSHO, Mo.–In 2019, Oliver Ruth suffered a major stroke after fighting influenza. Now at five years old, he’s still receiving therapy and treatments for it.

Two years ago, he was supposed to go to Disneyworld as a part of Make-a-wish, but due to Covid-19 it was postponed.

His mother, Amanda Ruth said they found “Make-a-Wish” through Oliver’s doctor.

“Oliver had a stroke, and then he was referred to Make-A-Wish by his Children’s Mercy neurologist in Kansas City.”

His mother says it’s been hard for their family. 

“It hasn’t been an easy road at all. we’re still going to therapies and many doctor visits.”

But on Friday, Oliver and his family didn’t have to think about all of that, instead, he received a big suprise from his classmates, and Make-a-wish.

Now, their family is able to focus on getting ready, for an all expenses paid trip to Disneyworld.

“They they have therapy and they have the doctor’s appointments. and this is the week that he gets to eat ice cream for breakfast if he chooses and go on his roller coasters as he wants, as he chooses,” said 

But Oliver says the best part was meeting his favorite Star Wars Character, Darth Vader. He says his favorite thing about Vader, is his light saber.

“when he touches your light saber, your hand, your hand gets cut off,” he said.

Oliver’s mother said lightsaber battles are a common occurence in the Ruth household.

“Him and his brothers, they play with lightsabers all the time at home, so it’s like constant star wars battle.”

For his mom Amanda, watching him get to live that out in real life with his favorite star wars character was a dream come true.

“I was happy that he was getting to live his dream, do something he he’s always wanted to do. “

Oliver says he’s most excited to see his favorite character again in Orlando.

When asked about Oliver choosing Darth Vader as his favorite, Make a wish says they just hope he doesn’t go over to the dark side.