Coronavirus Education

Lee County Elementary School, in eastern Kentucky, lost its third staff member to COVID-19 on Monday.

Lee County Schools Superintendent Sarah Wasson confirmed to WFPL that Lee County Elementary School guidance counselor Rhonda Estes died Monday afternoon of complications from COVID-19. She’d been with the district for more than three decades.

“Rhonda was a calming force with a positive outlook regardless of the circumstance. She encouraged and inspired all those she came in contact with. She did little things behind the scenes to help others and will be greatly missed by all who knew her,” Wasson wrote in an email to WFPL.

Wasson said the district is working with counselors and faith leaders to support students and staff.

Estes is the third employee at Lee County Elementary to die this school year from COVID. The school also lost custodian Bill Bailey and instructional assistant Heather Antle since the school year began. In August, after Antle died and three other staff members were hospitalized with the virus, the district closed in-person learning for a week.

Lee County Elementary School custodian Bill Bailey died in September of COVID-19.Lee County School District

Lee County Elementary School custodian Bill Bailey died in September of COVID-19. “When we think of Bill we think of his contagious smile and positive attitude. Each staff member chose a quote to go on their door this year and Bill’s was “Sweat now, shine later,'” a district Facebook post reads mourning his death.

Wasson said she could not disclose her employees’ vaccination status.

38 Kentucky public school employees have died of COVID-19 since the beginning of the pandemic, according to the public education advocacy group Kentucky 120 United AFT. 

Lee County Elementary School instructional assistant Heather Antle died of COVID-19 over the weekend.Lee County Schools

Lee County Elementary School instructional assistant Heather Antle died of COVID-19 in August. “She helped anywhere she was needed, assisted with the archery team for years, and brought great joy to the students and staff that she worked with,” a district Facebook post reads.

In Jefferson County Public Schools, Lowe Elementary is mourning the recent death of 33-year-old Christina Duff, a mental health counselor who previously worked in Oldham County Schools, according to Kentucky Department of Education spokesperson Toni Konz Tatman.

Longtime JCPS teacher and football coach Ty Scroggins and Lincoln Elementary Performing Arts School attendance clerk Arethia Tilford died from COVID-19 this past winter.

It’s not clear how many of the deceased employees acquired the deadly infection in a school setting.

Jess Clark is WFPL's Education and Learning Reporter.