RICHARDSON, Texas - Richardson ISD says a fully-vaccinated teacher and a student died due to COVID-19 complications last week.
Sha’Niyah "Nienie" McGee, a junior at Berkner High School, and Eroletta Piascyk, a teacher at the Christa McAuliffe Learning Center, both passed away the district announced on Monday.
"Both Nienie and Eroletta were highly cherished members of our RISD family and they will be fondly remembered and missed by their classmates and fellow teachers," the district said in a statement.
District officials said Piascyk was fully vaccinated and had received a booster shot.
"She had been in the hospital, but was expected to do better and so it was just a sudden shock we lost her when we did," said Dr. Jeannie Stone, RISD Superintendent.
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Sha’Niyah, 16, was described as "kind and respectful," Stone said. She is the first student to die from COVID-19 in Dallas County so far this year and her vaccination status was unknown. She had been out sick for several weeks before passing away.
Piascyk was described as "compassionate, gracious, and a talented educator" who’d been with the district for 20 years.
A moment of silence was held at RISD’s board of education meeting Monday night for the two.
"We send our condolences to these families and observe this moment of silence in their honor," Stone said.
Richardson’s school board discussed COVID-19 protocols not too long after it acknowledged the deaths. Public comment was split on mask mandates, which continue to be the subject of many lawsuits across the state.
"I had notes that I was going to share — and then we had a moment of silence for the student and teacher who recently passed away and I’m still a little shaky about it. I do not want to have to imagine a world in which that becomes the norm and the list gets longer," one speaker said.
"I don’t care what your view is on the efficacy of masks, whether they work, whether they don’t or whether you think you have the authority to mandate them. The fact is, as we stand here today — you don’t. And you’re violating the law by doing so," another speaker said.
Richardson ISD is among several districts being sued by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton because it continues to have a mask mandate. The mandate was not enforced at Monday’s meeting.
But the district wound up keeping its mandate in place, for the time being.
"We’re really stressing vaccinations. Get vaccinated," Stone said.