Community mourns middle school campus supervisor who died of COVID-19

DEKALB COUNTY, Ga. — Friends, family and loved ones held a memorial Sunday night for a DeKalb County campus supervisor who died from COVID-19.

Washington Varnum, Jr. worked at Henderson Middle School.

Varnum contracted COVID-19 in December around Christmas time and died a short time later.

[SPECIAL SECTION: COVID-19 Vaccine in Georgia]

Channel 2′s Audrey Washington was at the vigil, where she kept a safe and respectful distance as the community mourned.

Family members shared a photo of Varnum and said he was beloved by everyone who knew him.

[LINK: Where to find the COVID-19 vaccine in Georgia]

“He was very personable. He seemed to love his job and really care about the people around him,” said Varnum’s coworker Deborah Jones.

Employees with DeKalb County Schools said they want teachers to return to school on Monday and remind the superintendent that even one educator’s death is too many.

DeKalb County teachers went back to the classroom last Tuesday. The superintendent said the district made changes to keep students and teachers safe, but a number of teachers protested the return to school last week, saying it’s not safe to return with the current COVID-19 case rates.

“I know the old buildings we have in this district. They’re not clean and they’re not safe. They’re too old to be clean and safe and they haven’t done anything to make the ventilation better. We have schools that have no heat in the winter and no air in the summer. So what makes them safe to come back in? It doesn’t make sense,” said Deborah Jones from Educators of DeKalb County.

Some teachers threatened a walkout but ultimately it didn’t materialize. But at least on educator faced a tough choice. Jasmine Casilla worried that being back in a building could expose her to COVID-19 and be devastating for her family.

Casilla’s 6-year-old daughter has been in the hospital since November.

But this week, she said school leaders are expecting her to return to class.

“I do not qualify for FMLA. And I don’t qualify for ADA because it’s not my disability. It’s Isabella’s disability. I have no option.”

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