Two long-time Clarksville teachers died within a week of each other after suffering complications from COVID-19, leaving students, employees and families "heartbroken from the loss of these amazing educators."
Both were military veterans, men in their early 50s who worked as social studies teachers in the same tight-knit middle school.
The men are among four employees of the Clarksville-Montgomery County school district who have died since the academic year began, spokesperson Anthony Johnson said.
The deaths of three of those employees — the two men, who died Sept. 19 and 25, and a 45-year-old first-grade teacher who died Sept 4. — occurred after contracting COVID-19, the Tennessee Lookout confirmed.
In total, 21 Tennessee public school employees have died since the 2021 academic year got underway after contracting COVID-19. Ten employees – bus drivers, teachers, teachers aides and a cafeteria worker — died in August during the first month of school. Fourteen employees died in September, the Lookout confirmed through colleagues, family members and media reports.
Among the school staff who have died in September: a 60-year-old Hardeman County kindergarten teacher, a 44-year-old Washington County teacher's assistant, a 36-year-old Stewart County special education aide and a 42-year-old Metro Nashville Public Schools bus driver. In Knox County, three employees died in September: a special education teacher and two bus drivers.
In Clarksville, Johnson said the deaths had left the education community "heartbroken."
The 51-year-old social studies teacher was a "beloved sixth-grade social studies teacher at Kenwood Middle School, having positively impacted the lives of students since 2000," Johnson said.
Kenwood Middle School's other loss was a 54-year-old social studies teacher who was "a highly loved teacher and social-emotional learning coach who had taught and mentored hundreds of students at the school over the past 12 years."
The Clarksville elementary school teacher who died "was a wonderful first-grade teacher who made a difference in the lives of students at Woodlawn Elementary School since 2001," Johnson said.
"The district has been and will continue to provide additional school counselors and support for days to come" at the middle school," Johnson said. "We ask parents to be vigilant to their child's emotional needs during this time."
It is unknown whether school employees who died after contracting COVID-19 were exposed to the virus in or out of school.
Tennessee's latest surge in COVID-19 cases, which coincided with the start of school, has been among the worst in the nation, with ample community spread of the virus. Schools have been hit particularly hard, however, with hundreds of children and staff quarantined at times in nearly every mid- or large school district as a result of contracting the disease or being a close contact of someone who has. A study conducted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found Tennessee has had the most COVID-19-related school closures so far this school year.
While hospitalizations and new daily cases appear to be plateauing, the state continues to see a high number of COVID-19 deaths.
Neither the state department of education or department of health tracks COVID-19 deaths that are specific to school staff. The Lookout has been tracking deaths among public school employees and will continue to do so. To report a death, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Read more at TennesseeLookout.com.