The Prince William County school division has lost a second employee to COVID-19, this time a food and nutrition services aide at Woodbridge Middle School.
The school division shared the news Monday, Feb. 22, that Flor de Luz Cervantes had succumbed to COVID-19 in recent days.
Cervantes had been on medical leave from her job since Wednesday, Jan. 27, according to a letter from Woodbridge Middle School Principal Angela Owens.
“This is a difficult time for our school community, but Woodbridge students and staff will support each other as we deal with this loss,” Owens said in her letter.
School Board member Loree Williams (Woodbridge) called Cervantes’ death “heartbreaking” and “really hard” for the Woodbridge Middle School community. Although Williams did not personally know Cervantes, she said all school cafeteria works are “the backbone of our schools.”
“They’re like a bright spot in our school system,” Williams said Tuesday morning. “… I can still remember the cafeteria people where I went to school.”
Williams said she had spoken with others who knew Cervantes personally who called her “a wonderful person.”
“I’m really devasted by the news and here to support in any way we can,” she added.
Williams said she had been in touch with Woodbridge Middle School leaders on Monday.
“They’re definitely really upset. The principal had a meeting with staff yesterday … She’s doing everything she can to support her school family, because they really are a school family over there,” she said.
Cervantes lived in Prince William County in the Woodbridge District. She leaves behind at least two school-age children, one in elementary school and one in high school, Williams said.
Efforts to reach Owens for comment were not immediately successful Monday evening.
Williams noted that those who work in the schools’ cafeterias have been working in the school buildings “since before day one” of the pandemic. Immediately after schools shut down last March, the cafeteria workers at several schools began handing out food to families several times a week. The distributions happened throughout the summer and continue on a weekly basis.
Among the school communities, COVID-19 has hit school cafeteria workers particularly hard, Williams said.
“We’ve had quite a few cases” among school cafeteria workers, Williams said.
The loss comes just days before Prince William schools will welcome back thousands more children into school buildings across the county. Students in fourth, fifth, sixth and ninth grades whose parents choose to allow them to return to schools for in-person instruction will begin to returning on Thursday and Friday of this week.
The remaining students – those in seventh, eighth, 10th, 11th and 12th grades – are scheduled to return on Tuesday and Wednesday of next week, March 2 and 3.
At each school, students will be separated into two groups and will attend school two days a week on a "hybrid schedule" intended to keep numbers low enough to allow for social distancing. All students may elect to attend school virtually for the remainder of the school year.
The Woodbridge District, in eastern Prince William County, encompasses some of the ZIP Codes that have been hit hardest by COVID-19.
The first school division employee lost to COVID-19, Dinora Mejia, 60, was a longtime custodian at Potomac View Elementary School.
Both Mejia and her adult daughter, Claudia Ordonez, 41, contracted the virus in December and died just two days apart on Jan. 10 and 12.
Reach Jill Palermo at email@example.com. This is a developing news story. It will be updated with new information as we receive it.