KELSO, Wash. (KOIN) — As the Kelso School District continues to mourn the loss of a 4th-grade teacher, some parents worry over the district’s decision to not disclose her cause of death.
On Sept. 23, Barnes Elementary School teacher Karen James told parents through a parent-teacher messaging app she tested positive for COVID-19 and she would be out of the classroom for a period of time.
By Monday, she was gone. Parents told KOIN 6 News they got a phone call from the principal at Barnes Elementary informing them of her death. But parents said the school failed to disclose the COVID-19 case in the classroom.
Amanda and Curtis Hart’s daughter was in James’ class. The couple said another student has since tested positive and when they called the school to get more information, they said they were told they weren’t notified because they didn’t need to know.
“I was just floored,” said Amanda Hart, whose daughter was in James’ class. “These are our kids and we’re entrusting our safety and our care into these individuals and I’m not asking for students’ names, I don’t care who had COVID, I feel like we’re entitled to just simple data — just a heads up — so that we can make informed decisions as parents should we want to test our children, we have that opportunity.”
Under state guidelines, the health district said the school is only required to notify someone if they are considered close contact. But several parents told KOIN 6 News they think the entire classroom should be notified so parents can make their own decisions about what steps to take.
The Harts have pulled all three of their children out of the district until that policy changes.
James’ family shared the following statement with KOIN 6 News:
“Her family is shocked and deeply saddened by our sudden loss of a wonderful woman. She brought great joy and showed love and kindness generously to those she knew well and those she met along the way. Her smile and laughter will be cherished and the absence of her presence will continue to be felt deeply because she loved deeply. We are so thankful to have many treasured memories together and grieve those that will not be. We are comforted by her deeply personal faith in Jesus that ignited her unconditional love and provides eternal assurance.”