16-year-old Richardson Berkner HS student and RISD teacher die of complications from COVID-19

This is a developing story and will be updated frequently.

A Richardson ISD student and staff member died of complications from COVID-19, officials said Monday.

Sha’Niyah “Nienie” McGee, a junior at Berkner High School, and Eroletta Piasczyk – a teacher at Christa McAuliffe Learning Center, the district’s alternative disciplinary school – both died last week, Superintendent Jeannie Stone said in a message to families in the district. .

“All of us at the Richardson Independent School District are deeply saddened by this loss and want you to know that we are here to help you in any way we can,” Stone’s post read. “The RISD advisors have shared this news with campus staff and students, and will remain available to anyone who would like help dealing with the news. “

Neither the Texas Education Agency nor the Department of State Health Services is tracking how many educators and students in Texas have died from the coronavirus.

Education Week has documented, through reader submissions and its own reports, at least 1,161 educator deaths nationwide – including 387 active teachers – as of October 1. More than a tenth of that total comes from Texas.

Student deaths are also not tracked directly by the TEA on the state health services website. As of September 26, the state’s cumulative total of COVID-19 cases for students in the current school year was 172,275.

Childhood deaths from complications from COVID-19 are very rare. A summary of infant mortality data from May 2020 to late September 2021 by the American Academy of Pediatrics found 520 child death cases from data from 45 states, New York City, Puerto Rico and Guam.

These numbers, however, do not fully reflect Texas totals, as only 3% of state-reported cases included age distributions.

Last summer, Jameela Dirrean-Emoni Barber, a future student at Lancaster High School, died of complications from COVID-19, making her the youngest person in Dallas County to die from the coronavirus around this time. Barber had no known underlying health issues, a city spokesperson said.

Stone called McGee a “kind, respectful and valued member of the [Berkner High School] family. ”McGee, 16, was a peer mediator on campus. Prior to the current school year, she had attended Richardson Pearce as a freshman and college at Parkhill Junior High.

Piasczyk, 71, was “a compassionate, courteous and talented educator,” Stone wrote. Piasczyk had worked at Richardson ISD for 20 years, including 19 at the Christa McAuliffe Learning Center.

“We are in contact with the families of Nienie and Eroletta, and we will support them in any way we can,” Stone said. “If you would like to share a condolence message with either family, you can email [email protected] and the RISD advisers will forward the messages.”

Richardson directors observed a minute of silence in honor of McGee and Piasczyk during a board meeting on Monday evening.

“We were saddened by two tragic losses last week due to complications from COVID-19,” Superintendent Stone said.

Stone told the assembled crowd that teachers described McGee as being gentle and kind and a pleasure to know and have in class. Piasczyk was a longtime teacher at Christa McAuliffe Learning Center, who was a dedicated and loving teacher, Stone said.

Richardson ISD reported 113 active cases of COVID-19 among students and 16 among employees as of October 1. Berkner had 10 active cases of the coronavirus and McAuliffe Learning Center had none, according to the most recent report from RISD.

One of RISD’s high school students is currently in an intensive care unit, Ashley Jones, district health services director, said at Monday night’s board meeting.

“We haven’t seen this affect our students or staff to date like we did last week,” said Jones, who then cried during a discussion of health protocols and how whose children have been affected by COVID-19.

Since August, the start of the school year, the RISD has reported more than 1,100 cases of COVID among students and over 200 among employees, representing about 3% of the total staff and staff. district staff. During this period, the district made the use of masks mandatory on campuses, by students, staff and visitors, despite an executive order from Governor Greg Abbott banning such policies.

At the end of August, the district administration council voted 5-2 to join an existing lawsuit against Abbott, arguing that the governor had “exceeded his authority under the Disaster Act and that Executive Order GA 38 limits unlawfully the rights of RISD as an employer and an educational institution to establish the necessary security measures.

On September 3, the district administration board reaffirmed the mask requirement, shortly after the district was forced to temporarily close Brentfield Elementary in order to stop a COVID-19 outbreak on this campus. A week later, Richardson ISD and its trustees were among a handful of districts being sued by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton for violating Abbott’s executive order.

“Not only do Texas superintendents openly violate state law, but they are using district resources – which should be used to increase teacher merit or other educational benefits – to defend their illegal political maneuvers,” he said. Paxton said in a statement.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton delivers remarks at the Conservative Political Action Conference Sunday, July 11, 2021 in Dallas.  (Elias Valverde II / The Dallas Morning News)

After supporting membership in the lawsuit and reaffirming the district mask tenure, Richardson ISD board chairperson Karen Clardy abruptly resigned her post on September 24. Directors accepted Clardy’s resignation at a board meeting on Monday evening.

Several members of the community have asked council to keep the Clardy headquarters open until the May elections. The directors plan to discuss how to fill the vacant position at the next board meeting.

The DMN Education Lab deepens coverage and conversation on pressing education issues critical to the future of North Texas.

The DMN Education Lab is a community-funded journalism initiative, with support from The Beck Group, Bobby and Lottye Lyle, Communities Foundation of Texas, The Dallas Foundation, Dallas Regional Chamber, Deedie Rose, The Meadows Foundation, Solutions Journalism Network , Southern Methodist University and Todd A. Williams Family Foundation. The Dallas Morning News retains full editorial control of Education Lab journalism.

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