Teaching Profession

In One School Community, Three Deaths From COVID-19

By Hannah Farrow — August 17, 2020 3 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Three one-time employees of the Fort Braden School, in Tallahassee, Fla.—two of them members of the same family—have died of COVID-19 this summer, losses of life that have deeply affected the school community.

Karen Bradwell, 53, manager of the after-school program at the school, succumbed to the coronavirus in late July. A week earlier, a 19-year old custodian at the school, Jordan Byrd, had died of the disease.

The pain experienced by the Leon County school district did not end there. Last week, Jacqueline Byrd, Jordan’s mother and a former employee of the school, also died of the coronavirus.

Karen Bradwell

Both members of the Byrd family, and Bradwell, are remembered as devoted, caring individuals who made positive contributions to the school system, in very different ways.

The three deaths offer a stark portrait of the indiscriminate toll inflicted by the coronavirus, which has taken the lives of educators of all backgrounds, across many age groups.

Jimbo Jackson, the principal at Fort Braden, praised Bradwell’s devotion to the school, according to an email published by WCTV, a television station. He said he’d known Bradwell for 25 years.

Jordan Byrd

"[Karen] was a solid rock in our school community as our after-school director. More importantly, she was a devoted and loving mother, sister, aunt, grandmother, godmother, and mentor to hundreds of students over many years,” Jackson wrote.

One life lost is one too many, Jackson continued: “She will be terribly missed by all who knew her and her incredibly positive attitude regardless of the situation.”

Cynthia Bradwell, the school’s building supervisor and Bradwell’s sister, posted a message on Facebook.

“I would like to thank everyone for the love and support that was shown to my family and I during this difficult time; we really appreciated everyone reaching out to us to provide words of comfort, donations, and most importantly prayers. We are overly blessed to have so many friends near and far that loved Karen; She will truly be missed. God Bless!”

COVID-19 has had a broad and ongoing impact on the Leon County School System, of which the Fort Braden School is a part.

Last month, the Fort Braden school principal, Jackson, announced that he and his wife, Beth Jackson, who is principal at Hawk’s Rise Elementary School in the district, and his brother all tested positive for coronavirus, according to the Tallahassee Democrat. All three are believed to be recovering, the Democrat reported.

Jacqueline Byrd, 55, who passed away last week, was a former Fort Braden school employee, the newspaper said.

In a message posted on Facebook, Jacqueline Byrd’s surviving son, Jacary, paid honor to his mother and brother.

“To my heart I will definitely miss you‼️” he wrote. “You and Jordan Byrd have both left me. I know that you both are having a good time in the Lord. Mommy I will definitely miss you.”

The deaths come as the 34,000-student Leon County school district, like many others across Florida, prepares for the in-person reopening of its schools. Those plans have deeply worried educators in the state who are concerned about their exposure to the virus. The Leon County system said it will reopen in-person classes on Aug. 31, though it will have an online-only option for families.

‘People Gravitated to Him’

When Tricia Rizza, Jordan Byrd’s English professor at Tallahassee Community College, heard of his passing, two things popped into her mind: his positivity and hard work.

“He really was this quiet beacon in the class,” Rizza said in an interview.

“He wasn’t the one who wanted a lot of attention drawn on him and yet when he participated, it just happened people gravitated to him, and it was done so humbly.”

In Rizza’s class, Jordan sat in the second-to last-row. “I found myself a lot of times walking back into his area because he did participate and he had great discussions and worked with others constantly,” Rizza remembered.

When the college made the shift from in-person classes to online, Rizza said Jordan’s positivity shined through.

“Jordan would say something like, ‘You guys, I get it. This is not the way we want it. But we have to plow through. We’ve only got four weeks left, so we’ve got to make the best of it,’” Rizza said.

“That was kind of his message where he acknowledged that everybody was struggling, but in a sense he was that person that helped push us forward.

Related Tags:

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Well-Being Webinar
Attend to the Whole Child: Non-Academic Factors within MTSS
Learn strategies for proactively identifying and addressing non-academic barriers to student success within an MTSS framework.
Content provided by Renaissance
Classroom Technology K-12 Essentials Forum How to Teach Digital & Media Literacy in the Age of AI
Join this free event to dig into crucial questions about how to help students build a foundation of digital literacy.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Teaching Profession Opinion This Initiative Seeks to Redesign How We Staff Schools
A team-based approach to school staffing gives room for educators, school leaders, and system leaders to rethink their roles.
9 min read
Image shows a multi-tailed arrow hitting the bullseye of a target.
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty
Teaching Profession Teachers' Favorite Reads This Summer
Teachers shared some of their summer book selections, with a wide variety of subject matter and genres.
2 min read
Woman reading book in hammock
Liz Yap/Education Week and iStock/Getty
Teaching Profession In Their Own Words How This 'Goofy Science Teacher' Made It to the U.S. Open in Golf
High school science teacher and golf coach Colin Prater just played in one of the world's most prestigious golf tournaments.
6 min read
Colin Prater hits his tee shot on the 10th hole during a practice round for the U.S. Open golf tournament on June 12, 2024, in Pinehurst, N.C.
Colin Prater hits his tee shot on the 10th hole during a practice round for the U.S. Open golf tournament on June 12, 2024, in Pinehurst, N.C.
Frank Franklin II/AP
Teaching Profession Teachers: Start Your School Supplies Shopping Now With These Discounts
As teachers start back-to-school shopping, Education Week compiled a list of educator discounts that can reduce costs.
3 min read
Photo of school supplies.
iStock