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Second Fort Braden School Employee Dies From COVID-19 As Jimbo Jackson Warns Against Reopening Schools

A large, empty classroom.

A second Fort Braden School employee has died from COVID-19, and principal Jimbo Jackson, who tested positive for the virus earlier this month, says he cannot back reopening schools for in-person classes.

Jackson, who is also a Leon County Commissioner, announced the death of 53-year-old After School director Karen Bradwell in an email to faculty and staff. She had worked at Fort Braden Elementary School for 25 years but had not been on campus regularly since Spring Break.

“I find myself extending my condolences to both the Jordan Byrd and Karen Bradwell families. As you can imagine, they are all suffering through real and painful loss. Nothing I say here will replace the loss of these incredible people who have impacted so many lives in our school community and beyond. I have felt and seen firsthand the effects of this deadly virus as these families grieve the loss of our loved ones gone much too soon. I have no words that can comfort the families experiencing the sudden passing of their loved one. I know this feeling all too well,” Jackson wrote.

Byrd, a 19-year old school custodian, died a week ago due to complications from COVID-19.

An order directing public schools to reopen for in-person classes five days a week has sparked outrage, confusion, and worry among teachers and parents concerned about the recent increase in infections. Governor Ron DeSantis has tried to distance himself from the state Department of Education’s directive and now says reopening decisions should be left to districts.

Leon County Schools has pushed its school year start date back a week, with plans for face masks, and social distancing in classrooms, but teachers are fearful about going back into environments where their safety cannot be guaranteed.

“As a school leader, I cannot continue to see my school family mourn our friends and then tell them that ‘I can keep you safe when you come to school.’ That would certainly be a lie and a slap in the face to the Byrd and Bradwell families as they grieve and plan memorial services for angels gone too soon,” said Jackson in his email.

“With what the Fort Braden School community has already endured, I cannot support a return to brick and mortar school and respectfully call on our state leaders to postpone the return of students to school buildings until such time as it is reasonably safe for all members of our school communities. Our students, staff, and personnel are not a gamble I am willing to take when lives hang in the balance.”