Gwinnett science teacher dies after contracting COVID-19, family says

Grayson High School science teacher Janet Bruce died on Aug. 12 after contracting the coronavirus. (Courtesy photo)

Credit: Contributed

Credit: Contributed

Grayson High School science teacher Janet Bruce died on Aug. 12 after contracting the coronavirus. (Courtesy photo)

Janet Bruce, a longtime science teacher at Grayson High School in Gwinnett County, recently died of COVID-19, her family said. She was 50.

“This was so sudden and unexpected and truly a tragedy for our family,” said Bruce’s niece, McKenzey Harrison, a special education teacher at Grayson High. “There will forever be a hole.”

She died at a time when coronavirus cases are rising in Georgia due to the highly contagious delta variant and low vaccination rates. The impact is being felt in school districts across the state.

In metro Atlanta, districts recorded nearly 4,000 COVID-19 cases in the first few days of the new school year, according to their data reports. Outside of Atlanta, at least 19 Georgia school districts temporarily shut down, pivoted to virtual learning or put in hybrid plans within days of opening classrooms.

Bruce reported to work on July 26 to get ready for the new school year — more than a week before school buildings opened to students, Harrison said. She felt sick two days later and was hospitalized later that week.

She never returned to her classroom and died Aug. 12 at Northside Hospital Duluth.

She lived in Lawrenceville with her husband, Chris Bruce, who is hospitalized with COVID-19 but is progressing, and their 13-year-old daughter Gentry, Harrison said. Janet Bruce is also survived by a son, Dalton, a civil engineer who lives in Pooler, as well as her parents, two siblings and many extended family members.

Bruce was a teacher for 27 years, 17 of those at Grayson High. She taught physics, Principal Dana Pugh said in an Aug. 13 letter to families and staff.

“We lost an outstanding educator today, one who even taught my own children,” Pugh said. “She will be missed by so many.”

Harrison said Bruce encouraged her to become a teacher.

“She always helped every student that came into her class, whether they were actually in her class or not,” Harrison said.

Bruce was a cheerleading coach and a lifelong member of Lawrenceville Presbyterian Church, her niece said. She also loved to travel and play with children. She was known as an adventurous person always willing to try new things.

“She was a big kid at heart,” Harrison said. “Anytime there was a new baby, Janet would hold it. If you didn’t know where the baby was, you could find her and she would tell you.”

She grew up in Lawrenceville and graduated from Central Gwinnett High School before earning her bachelor’s degree in science education from the University of Georgia. Before Grayson, she taught at Monroe Area High School and Winder Barrow High School.

Harrison declined to say whether Bruce was vaccinated against COVID-19. She said the family does not know how she contracted the virus. Her husband was hospitalized two days later, Harrison said.

From the start of the school year Aug. 4 until Tuesday, 1,203 students and employees reported testing positive for the coronavirus, according to Gwinnett County Public Schools. Of those, 1,059 are students and 144 are staff.

As of Wednesday, the school district recorded 11 active cases of COVID-19 among staff and students at Grayson High. The school has nearly 3,200 students and 266 staff members, according to the district.

A viewing service was held from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday at Wages and Sons Funeral Home, 1031 Lawrenceville Highway in Lawrenceville. A celebration of life memorial service will take place Oct. 3 at 2 p.m. at Lawrenceville Presbyterian Church, 800 Lawrenceville Highway.

In lieu of flowers, Bruce’s family asked for donations to Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta or the Paul Art Scholarship Fund at Lawrenceville Presbyterian Church.