District: Lancaster SC School’s second staff member dies of COVID
Lancaster, South Carolina
A second member of the special education staff at a Lancaster County school died this week from complications from COVID-19, school district officials said.
Eleanor Mends was a special education teacher at South Middle School, said Michelle Craig, spokesperson for the Lancaster County School District.
Another support staff member of the school’s special education department died earlier this week from complications from COVID-19, the district said on Wednesday. This first person to die was not identified by school officials because district officials had not spoken to family members, Craig said.
Officials have not disclosed any information on how the two staff members may have contracted the disease or the exact dates of their deaths.
Craig said Friday morning that the two people who died did not work in the same classroom.
âCurrently, the only connection between the two was that they were both employees of South Middle School,â Craig told the Herald on Friday morning.
A 16-year-old Andrew Jackson high school student died in August of complications from COVID-19, officials said last month.
“Schools are a family”
Mends had years of teaching experience and worked with the Lancaster district for three years, according to the district.
“We are saddened to learn of the passing of a second South Middle School staff member,” the district said in a statement Friday. “Our thoughts and prayers are with Ms. Mends’ family during this difficult time.”
Lydia Quinn, director of human resources and the district’s main operations office, said Mends started at Indian Land High School and then moved to South Middle School this year.
Quinn said she emailed Mends on Monday, asking him how the New Year is going.
âShe said, ‘I love my people from the South,’â Quinn said.
Quinn said Mends was a friend and like family.
âWe are saddened for her, for her family and for her school family. Because schools are family, Quinn said. âPeople say being a teacher is a job, and it’s true, but when someone is a teacher, that’s what it is.
“He was someone who considered his students to be his own.”
No plans to become fully virtual
Bryan Vaughan, director of safety and transportation for the school district, said senior district officials were aware of the second COVID-related death at South Middle School.
âThere are no plans at this time to close the school and go virtual,â Craig said. âWe continue to follow quarantine guidelines for all students and staff. “
An online school district survey asking parents if they want to switch to online school will close at noon Monday.
Last month, the Lancaster County School District Board of Directors voted to shorten some quarantine periods despite a record number of COVID-19 cases, the Herald previously reported.
Classes with more than three cases in two weeks have been “closed” to virtual learning during the district’s 10-day quarantine period, Quinn said.
However, one school, Indian Land Intermediate School, switched to virtual learning on August 31 due to a spike in COVID-19 cases, the Herald reported. The school returned to in-person learning on Tuesday.
No mask warrant
The district will not require staff and students to wear masks due to a one-year state rule that bans mask warrants in schools. While school districts like Columbia and Chester have defied that mandate and demand masks, Lancaster will not.
Schools that defy the state’s conditional clause could lose state funding, Quinn said. The Lancaster School District receives $ 70 million from its annual state budget of $ 100 million, she said.
âThis is how we pay salaries,â Quinn said. “I’m not sure this is something we can afford to do.”
Last month the South Carolina Department of Education began to require masks to be worn on school buses.
South Middle District COVID-19 Case
This week, six staff and seven students at South Middle School tested positive for COVID-19, according to the COVID dashboard on the district’s website on Friday.
South Middle had 10 students and two staff members in quarantine, according to the dashboard.
Across the district, 152 students and staff tested positive for the coronavirus this week, the dashboard says. More than 2,100 people across the district were in quarantine, according to the district scorecard.
At a recent school board meeting, Lancaster County School District Superintendent Jonathan Phipps said the district’s cases were already double what they were at last year’s peak.
âLast year with that we would have closed schools,â said Phipps. âWe would probably have closed the neighborhood. “