Second teacher at same Lancaster County school dies from COVID-19 complications

LANCASTER COUNTY, S.C. — Channel 9 has learned that a second teacher at a Lancaster County middle school has died from COVID-19 complications.

According to school officials, South Middle School special education teacher Eleanor Mends did not survive her fight against the virus.

In a statement released Friday morning, Lancaster County school officials said Mends had many years of experience and had taught for three years in the district.

Mends is the second special education teacher from South Middle School to die this week from COVID-19 complications. The school said earlier this week that seven staff members had recently tested positive for COVID.

“It breaks my heart to know that these teachers, they caught it and they passed away from it because they have families at home too. Their families are going through it, their students are going through it, their coworkers,” said parent Brianna Thompson.

Officials told Channel 9 that the two teachers were not in the same classroom. Counselors will be available to students and staff at the school.

“I just feel like, you know, if you’re not vaccinated, get vaccinated. I’m fully vaccinated. I work in health care. I have two children. I feel like this COVID right now is not a joke. Teachers are catching it, students are catching it. I’ve heard of numerous classrooms at my daughters school that are on quarantine. My next-door neighbors are quarantined,” Thompson said.

Though some parents on social media were calling for the school to close and teach students remotely, the school district told Channel 9 there are no plans to close the school and move to virtual learning.

Officials told Channel 9 on Friday that they are continuing to follow quarantine guidelines for all students and staff.

‘She was elegance’: Lancaster County teacher dies from COVID-19 complications

The Lancaster County School District is mourning the death of a middle school teacher.

According to the district, a special education teacher at South Middle School died from COVID-19 complications.

The teacher’s name and age has not been released, but students and coworkers who knew her well told Channel 9 she was a pillar in the school system, where she worked for nearly 30 years.

“If you’re in our building for any period of time you knew who she was,” Lancaster County Schools Superintendent Jonathan Phipps said. “She was elegance, but also had a fire about her.”

According to district officials, she was one of seven staff members at the school who tested positive for COVID-19. They said she was hospitalized recently and died Saturday due to complications from the virus.

One of her former students -- who is now in her thirties -- told Channel 9 the impact she had on her life was enormous.

“When I found out it really broke my heart,” she said. “She was so sweet. A loving person and she’s gonna be truly missed.

On Wednesday, the school district issued the following statement:

We are saddened to learn of the passing of a South Middle School special education staff member from COVID complications. Counselors are available to students and staff as needed.

The district continues to follow guidance from the CDC and SC DHEC. It is the district’s priority to keep students and staff safe.

Our thoughts and prayers are with the staff member’s family.

The new school year started in Lancaster County in mid-August. According to the Lancaster County School District, by the end of the first week of classes, they saw a total of 125 positive COVID-19 cases. Thirty of the cases were in staff members and 95 were students.

Channel 9 also reported last month that a 16-year-old student at Andrew Jackson High School in Lancaster County died from COVID-19 complications.

(WATCH BELOW: 16-year-old dies due to COVID-19 complications in Lancaster County, coroner says)