The Prince William County school division has lost a third employee and its first teacher to COVID-19.
Gar-Field High School math teacher Richard Zuckernick, who had been battling the disease for the past few months, passed away from complications due to COVID-19, Gar-Field High School Principal Matthew Mathison said in an emailed letter to parents Tuesday night.
Zuckernick had been working virtually “all year long,” Mathison wrote, but still “formed strong bonds with his students due to his dedication and caring personality.”
“Words cannot express the grief the Gar-Field community will feel from this loss. I am in contact with his family to provide support,” Mathison wrote in his message, which was shared with the Prince William Times. “Members of our Critical Incident Team will be available to assist students and staff in coping with their sadness.”
School Board Chairman Dr. Babur Lateef confirmed Tuesday night that he had been informed of Zuckernick’s death earlier Tuesday.
“As chairman of the school board, we regret the loss of this teacher; it’s very tragic,” Lateef said. “COVID-19 has affected people around the world, certainly our school division is not immune to it.”
Zuckernick taught algebra and geometry to ninth and 10th grade students, according to the Gar-Field High School website.
Efforts to reach Mathison and school division spokeswoman Diana Gulotta for comment were not immediately successful Tuesday night.
In his email to the school community, Mathison asked parents to pay attention to their students’ emotional needs and said counselors would be made available to students learning both in person and virtually.
Those who need assistance are asked to call the school division’s counseling office at 703-730-7000 or to email firstname.lastname@example.org to receive virtual support, the letter said.
Zuckernick is the third Prince William County school division employee to die of complications of COVID-19.
Longtime Potomac View Elementary School custodian Dinora Mejia, 60, died on Jan. 10.
Woodbridge Middle School nutrition aide Flor Cervantes, 50, died on Feb. 21. Neither are believed to have contracted the virus at school, school division officials said.
This is a breaking news story. It will be updated.