A 28-year-old elementary school teacher in South Carolina has died of COVID-19 just a week after the start of classes.
Demetria Bannister, who taught third grade at Windsor Elementary School in Columbia, was diagnosed last Friday and died on Monday, reports CNN. Affectionately known as “Windsor’s songbird” by her colleagues, Bannister’s love for music set her apart, said Windsor Elementary Principal Denise Quickel.
Bannister was active in the school beyond her classroom, working with the school choir and hosting a student club for aspiring singers, writes CNN. During a school event promoting class attendance last year, Bannister wrote a song to the tune of Lil Nas X’s hit “Old Town Road.” The song and its accompanying video made an impression on students, parents and her fellow teachers, said Quickel.
“[Bannister] never missed an opportunity to advocate for students and public education,” she added.
It’s unclear, at this point, how Bannister contracted the virus. She was last at the school on August 28 to do some prep work for her classes but was teaching remotely the week that she got sick.
Baron Davis, superintendent for Richland District Two, told The Root the district is currently in the first phase of a three-part process to fully re-open. Because there had been more than 200 cases of coronavirus in the district within the last two weeks, all classes are being taught remotely. However, teachers have the option to go to school buildings to do prep work or to deliver video lessons from their brick-and-mortar classrooms. The approach was developed by South Carolina’s Department of Health.
Davis said the district followed procedures for disinfecting, contact tracing and notification of close contacts. He also said that, while school administrators are still working from campus buildings, Bannister was alone in her classroom on Aug. 28, and no one has been in her classroom since.
“It’s so unfortunate. She was so young and very talented and very gifted, and will be sorely missed by her school community,” said Davis. “We all mourn this loss.”
Even though the academic year has just begun in many parts of the country, at least six teachers have already died thus far from coronavirus complications after their schools reopened, reports the Washington Post.
Among them is Nacoma James, a 42-year-old football coach in Oxford, Miss., who died in August just one week after the campus reopened for students. The beloved Lafayette High School special teams coach fell ill with what he thought was a sinus infection around July 30, according to the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal. He self-quarantined and reported feeling better, but was rushed to the emergency room days later. James died on Aug. 6.
“He just had a way about him,” Fair said. “He was always happy, brought a great attitude to the field house every day and to this school. … Hard worker, very loyal to me and to this program,” said head coach Michael Fair. “Just everything that you would want a coach to be up here influencing these children.”
The school district’s superintendent told Mississippi Today that James was with students “all summer” during football workouts. After a brief break, pre-season football practices at Lafayette resumed on Aug. 17, reports the Daily Journal.