2 Cobb educators die from COVID-19

Credit: GoFundMe

Credit: GoFundMe

A Cobb County teacher and a paraprofessional died from COVID-19 Thursday, marking at least three deaths among school system employees.

Dana Johnson, a first-grade teacher at Kemp Elementary School, died Thursday morning, six weeks after she was admitted to the hospital, said Principal Billy Pritz.

Pritz said Johnson was a vital part of the school and “served our students with all of her heart.”

“Our hearts are broken for the Johnson family and we mourn together with them and all of our school community,” he said in a letter to Kemp parents, teachers and staff.

Superintendent Chris Ragsdale said Thursday during the Board of Education’s work session that Johnson “was beloved by her team members and the parents that made up the community” of Kemp Elementary School.

“Ms. Johnson was a valuable part of our academic community,” the school district said in a statement. “The outpouring of support for her family during this difficult time shows how much she was loved and positively impacted those around her.”

Another Cobb school community is reeling from the loss of an educator. Cynthia Lindsey, a paraprofessional at Sedalia Park Elementary School, died Thursday after she was hospitalized earlier this month with COVID-19.

According to a GoFundMe page created to help Lindsey’s family, the paraprofessional was diagnosed with pneumonia and was placed on a ventilator. Organizers are hoping to raise $10,000 to help Lindsay’s family with medical and funeral expenses, according to the GoFundMe page.

The Cobb school district does not provide numbers on how many teachers, staff or students die from COVID-19, but it does list the number of active and cumulative cases on its website that is updated each Friday.

Johnson is the second known Cobb teacher to die within the last month from COVID-19. Patrick Key, who taught at Hendricks Elementary School, died Christmas Day following a monthlong hospital stay.

Johnson had been hospitalized since Dec. 6 at WellStar Paulding Hospital’s ICU. She had been diagnosed with pneumonia in both lungs and had been placed on a ventilator. According to a GoFundMe page created to help Johnson’s family pay for medical expenses, the educator struggled with breathing issues during her hospital stay.

The GoFundMe goal, which was initially at $20,000, has been increased to $50,000. As of Thursday, more than $35,000 has been raised.

Two additional Cobb teachers, Jacob Furse of Garrett Middle School and Julia Varnedoe of Mount Bethel Elementary School, were hospitalized and treated for COVID-19. Both are recovering at home.

Cobb County schools last week canceled in-person learning through Friday due to the a large number of students and staff diagnosed with COVID-19 or exposed to the illness. The rise in COVID-19 cases around Cobb has renewed parent and teacher calls for the district to cancel in-person learning. A petition created last week asking Superintendent Chris Ragsdale to close classrooms has received more than 6,300 signatures.