DALLAS - As thousands of Dallas ISD students prepare for the first day of in-person classes on Monday, many are mourning the death of a teacher.
James Becker died of COVID-19 last week.
His case is sending some fear into other educators, who are afraid of becoming sick.
All Dallas ISD students choosing to learn in person will be back in school Monday. This comes less than one week after a teacher died during his fight with COVID-19.
James Beckers was known for being a teacher who makes others smile.
His co-worker, Jacqueline Martinez, said he greeted her every day while she taught in a nearby classroom at Cochran Elementary School in Oak Cliff.
“He was just the type of teacher that had lots of enthusiasm, he was very animated, and you couldn’t help but feel good around him,” she said.
But Beckers’ family said he died on September 29 after a battle with COVID-19. He contracted the virus and was rushed to the hospital on September 9.
He had a heart attack. He had a lung collapse. He was then placed on a ventilator, before passing away three weeks after going to the hospital.
Rena Honea, president of Alliance AFT — Dallas ISD’s teacher union — said Beckers’ story is alarming as all DISD students learning in-person will return to campus Monday.
“So we are incredibly sad, but incredibly frightened for the outlook that this sheds for our students coming back into the building,” Honea said.
Dallas ISD issued a statement that “Beckers’ death signifies a time of heartfelt sorrow,” adding that it’s “committed to the health and safety of every student, staff and family — and will continue to be diligent in requiring masks, frequent hand washing and deep cleaning of facilities.”
That said, Honea is still very concerned.
“Whatever plans were put out and we’ve seen the plans, they look great on paper, but if they are not followed with fidelity at every campus, at every worksite, unfortunately, I think we’re going to see employees and students become sicker and sicker,” she added.
Martinez said, because of the pandemic, she’s left her job. She chose not to teach this semester, and is not sure when she might return to teaching.
“This is one of the dangers. This is one of the risks,” she said. “Students are about to show up on Monday and parents don’t have the full picture.”
She doesn’t believe in-person learning can be safely executed.
There’s no telling exactly where Beckers contracted the virus. Right now, Martinez is wishing Beckers was around for his family, students, and to greet her like he used to.
“So, I mean I can still hear his voice in my head just saying, ‘Good morning, Ms. Martinez,’ from across the hallway,” she recalled. “He was a treasure of a teacher. He really was.”
Alliance AFT said sad at least six cases of COVID-19 have been reported at Cochran. Dallas ISD has reported 42 districtwide cases of COVID-19.