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Teacher dies from coronavirus, Pasco County parents nervous to send kids back to school

Coronavirus

NEW PORT RICHEY, Fla. (WFLA) – Florida has surpassed 5,000 coronavirus deaths. One of the most recent coronavirus deaths occurred on Sunday.

Pasco County Middle School teacher Renee Dermott died just days before her 52nd birthday.

“They were crying like I was crying… like they had lost their mother, too,” said Nikki Dermott, who watched as nurses on the front lines tried to save her mom from coronavirus.

“They do it every day and then go home every day, and we just went home because we lost our mother.”

Renee Dermott was a mother, wife and teacher in the Pasco County School District for more than 20 years. She most recently taught at Seven Springs Middle School.

Her death comes almost exactly three weeks before Pasco County Schools are set to re-open on Aug. 10.

Now, many teachers, students and parents are concerned about the upcoming school year.

“[Mrs. Dermott] put a face to the pandemic locally and we’re just now we want to make the right decision not only for [our family] but for the staff [and their families],” said Katheryn Black.

The Pasco County School District is giving families 3 options: traditional, MySchool online and virtual school.

Black said her 9-year-old daughter Natalie struggles with dyslexia and her 1-year-old son Nathan struggles with autism, so she and her husband chose for both to go back to traditional school at Trinity Oaks Elementary.

But after Dermott’s recent death, Black says now, she’s not sure if sending them back inside the traditional classroom is the right decision.

“Our hope is that [the Pasco County School Board] pushes the school year back just to start seeing the numbers go down,” said Black.

The school board will meet on Tuesday.

The Pasco County School District sent 8 On Your Side a statement, saying they understand the concerns families are dealing with.

“Here in Pasco County, we share the health and safety concerns being expressed by parents, students, and teachers. The recent death of one of our teachers makes the potential dangers even more real. Still, we are doing our best to comply with the Education Commissioner’s order that schools open their classrooms in August. We have offered parents three choices, including two options that involve online learning. Now it is our job to provide as safe a campus environment as possible.” 

Pasco County Schools Public Information Officer, Stephen Hegarty,

The order from the Department of Education says that it’s the school board’s decision, subject to advice from the local health department.

8 On Your Side’s Christine McLarty reached out to the Florida Department of Health in Pasco County, who said they understand the concerns and are taking them into consideration.

“As of now, nothing has changed in regards to the school start date. But know that the Pasco County Health Department hears the concerns from the community and we’re taking those concerns under consideration.”

FL Dept. of Health in Pasco County, Melissa Watts

The Pasco County School District said the date families were told to have their child’s back-to-school option submitted by was July 8, however, they said parents can still switch their child’s schooling option by calling their child’s school directly.

Pasco School District representatives said parents can participate in the virtual school board meeting Tuesday at 6 p.m. The school district website says the telephone number for participation is 1-800-341-6228, passcode 33215, and specific instructions regarding the call shall be provided.

A GoFundMe page was set up to help support Mrs.Dermott’s family. As of Monday evening, the page had more than $12,000 worth of donations.

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