The family of a longtime Gwinnett County Public Schools employee, as well as her former co-workers, is mourning after she passed away earlier this month from COVID-19.
Maude Jones, who had been a paraprofessional at Rock Springs Elementary School who began working with Gwinnett County Public Schools in 2006, died on Jan. 4. She had been an employee of the district, and working at school, until she was hospitalized with COVID-19 last month.
“It just happened like one thing after another, after another,” Jones’ daughter, Nyenneh Jones, told Daily Post news partner FOX 5 Atlanta. “It was like a ball rolling downhill.”
Gwinnett County Public Schools officials said they could not confirm the cause of Jones’ death due to health privacy laws. A letter that Rock Springs Elementary School Principal Allan Gee sent to parents on Jan. 5 to inform them of Jones’ death did not mention COVID-19.
The letter noted that Jones had been at Rock Springs Elementary School since 2018 and that she officially entered retirement in December. Jones worked with students in a self-contained special education class at the school “in a caring and respectful manner,” the principal told the school’s parents.
“Although Ms. Jones would not have been returning to our school this semester as she had retired in December, I knew our Rock Springs family would want to know of our loss,” Gee said in the letter. “Losing a teacher, co-worker, and member of our school family is hard.”
In addition to being a teacher, Jones was also the primary caretaker for her son, who is disabled.
Jones’ family told FOX 5 that they believe she contracted the disease after someone at the school was diagnosed with it, although her daughter said the paraprofessional had taken great lengths to protect herself from getting the disease.
Maude Jones had already planned to retire at the end of the fall semester before she got COVID. The plan was for her last day at school before her retirement began to be Dec. 18, but she was hospitalized two days before that with complications from COVID-19.
“We beat ourselves up every day,” Nyenneh Jones said. “We should have encouraged her more to just not go back after the Thanksgiving break.”
To date, Rock Springs Elementary School has reported eight confirmed cases of COVID-19, as well as two suspected cases and 13 close contacts with someone who has the disease.
Those numbers include one new confirmed case, one new suspected case and six close contacts that were reported by the school on Monday.
The school system has reported a total of 568 confirmed cases, 330 suspected cases and 2,703 close contacts so far during the current school year.
Three school board members — Everton Blair, Karen Watkins and Tarece Johnson — pushed for starting the spring semester in an all digital format and delaying a return to in-person instruction until Jan. 19 because of a sharp new spike of COVID-19 cases in Gwinnett County that began over the holidays. Superintendent J. Alvin Wilbanks, who had the final say on how students began the semester, disagreed with them during a called meeting on Jan. 4, however, and expressed opposition to making a change to the start of the semester.