COVID-19 deaths MGN

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — An elementary school in eastern Kentucky suffered its third coronavirus-related death among its staff since the school year began, the district’s superintendent said Tuesday.

Lee County Elementary counselor Rhonda Estes died Monday, Superintendent Sarah Wasson said. A custodian and an instructional aide at the same school also died from the coronavirus.

“It’s just really hard,” Wasson said by phone. “We’re really grieving the loss.”

Estes helped shape students’ lives while working in the district for 35 years, Wasson said.

“She just was a calming force,” Wasson said. “She had a positive outlook, regardless of the circumstance that she was in. She encouraged other people and inspired them. She did little things behind the scenes to help others in anything that they did.”

Counselors are being brought in for students and staff, she said.

Lee County Elementary custodian Bill Bailey died of COVID-19 earlier this month. Instructional aide Heather Antle died from the virus in late August.

The Lee County school board voted last week to keep its universal masking policy in schools for the time being. With a few exceptions, school boards across Kentucky voted to keep masks on students and staffs while at school as the delta variant continues to drive up COVID-19 infections and deaths.