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Lancaster County teacher dies from COVID-19 complications, district says

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the staff member’s family during this difficult time.”
Published: Sep. 8, 2021 at 9:34 AM EDT
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LANCASTER COUNTY, S.C. (WBTV) – A staff member in the Lancaster County School District has died from COVID-19 complications, district officials announced.

According to a statement, the employee was a special education teacher at South Middle School.

Counselors are available to students and staff as needed, according to the district.

“The district continues to follow guidance from the CDC and SC DHEC. It is the district’s priority to keep students and staff safe,” district officials said. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the staff member’s family during this difficult time.”

”It’s heartbreaking,” says David Sweem, a principal at South Middle School.

A sweet smirk traveled across Sweem’s face as he remembered just how special the SMS teacher was.

”If you were in our building for any period of time you knew who she was. She was elegant but also had a fire about her. And kids respected her and loved her and she loved the kids more than they could ever love her back,” Sweem said.

The school principal and district superintendent could not share too many details but one thing they could not stop sharing—the love people had for this teacher.

Superintendent Jonathan Phipps says the teacher was sick with COVID for a few weeks and recently was admitted to the hospital. On Tuesday, they say she was on a ventilator. She passed away on Saturday.

As the district mourns the loss of a beloved teacher, Phipps is taking a moment to reflect.

”It makes me question if we’re doing all we can to keep kids safe,” said Phipps. “It makes me question that continuously.”

The superintendent did not want to make this political or take away from this teacher’s death, but he does not want to keep seeing more students and staff members getting sick and possibly dying.

Phipps says teachers are frightened despite coming in every day to do the job they love most, especially because he says this year does not hold a candle to last year.

”We can look at just the first few weeks of school and you can put it next to months of positive cases from last year,” he says.

The one thing missing from year to year? Masks. It is still illegal in the state of South Carolina for schools to mandate masks and Phipps says they can’t dip into their 130-million-dollar budget when state money makes up 70 percent of it.

”There’s no way we could pay that. There’s no way we can pay teachers, we wouldn’t be able to keep the lights on so it’s just not something that we can do,” says Phipps.

So Phipps instead is hoping, almost pleading, that people will step up so they can protect their teachers and students.

”I would hope that people would start to care more about others and care more about the safety of others than quite frankly what we’re seeing,” he says.

According to the district’s dashboard, seven SMS teachers tested positive for COVID-19. It is the most in the entire county. This teacher was one of the seven.

This is the second COVID-19-related death the Lancaster County School District has experienced in the last few weeks.

On Aug. 12, a 16-year-old died following a COVID-19 diagnosis.

The teen was a student at Andrew Jackson High School.

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