A Warren County school bus driver, a Carroll County High School teacher and a Jefferson County counselor are among the latest of at least 33 Kentucky K-12 educators who have reportedly died from COVID-19 since 2020.
Without providing names, the educators’ group KY 120 United this week listed the K-12 employees whose deaths were attributed to COVID through Sept. 16. At least two Kentucky school employees have died this week, according to media reports.
A funeral was held Thursday for Warren County bus driver James Monroe “Monty” Austin who died of COVID, the Bowling Green Daily News reported.
On Wednesday, Amanda Nutt, the 2020 Hart County teacher of the year, died from COVID complications.
Christina Duff, a 33-year-old mental health counselor at Jefferson County Schools, died in early September from COVID, Kentucky Department of Education spokeswoman Toni Konz Tatman told the Herald-Leader Thursday.
The KY 120 United Retirees list of K-12 educators who died from COVID complications includes school employees from Fayette, Greenup, Lee, Marshall, Fort Knox, Trigg, Bell, Magoffin, Jefferson, Carroll, LaRue, Letcher, Middlesboro, Monroe, Boone, Bardstown, Mercer, Warren, Hopkins, Carter, Fulton Independent and Nelson. In some districts such as Fayette, Jefferson and Lee, more than one employee has died, according to the list.
Danny Osborne, Superintendent of Carroll County Public Schools, dismissed classes at Carroll County High School early Wednesday so people could attend the funeral of teacher Tom Buchanan.
Buchanan’s wife, Misty Buchanan, told the Herald-Leader Thursday that her husband, 59, died of COVID. She said he loved her more than he loved himself.
Buchanan said her husband had only become a special education teacher about six years ago. Before that, he was a substitute teacher.
“He loved his students. He had no problems with tough love,” she said. “He was very honest with them. He would do anything for them.”
Tom Buchanan made sure hungry students knew about a local food pantry, she said, and he was diligent about checking on a student whose parent had died.
Their battle with COVID began in late August. Tom Buchanan had allergies and his cough kept getting worse. Misty Buchanan, a recently retired teacher, also had a sore throat and was feeling sick. They both tested positive for COVID the week of Aug. 23.
On Aug. 31, Buchanan went to a Carroll County hospital emergency room and was admitted. Misty Buchanan was able to recover at home. Tom Buchanan was flown to a Dayton, Ohio, hospital on Sept. 3 because of a shortage of beds in Kentucky.
A doctor called her on Sept. 8 and told her there was nothing else they could do. On, Friday Sept. 10, she said, her husband died.
The couple, who would have been married 26 years this month, were able to have one last visit at the Dayton hospital. They discussed end-of life decisions.
Tom’s last text to their daughter were the words, “Take Care of Your Mama,” Misty Buchanan said.
Misty Buchanan said neither she or her husband were vaccinated. They were worried about side effects, especially blood clots.
“It was a conscious decision. We had talked at length. I asked him several times. It was a conscious decision that we didn’t waver from,” Misty Buchanan said. “I’ve been through a lot of guilt about that.”
“We were very respectful of each other’s opinion. Neither of us coerced the other into doing something that we didn’t think was right,” she said. “This was something he just didn’t feel comfortable getting.”
Misty Buchanan said she hasn’t decided yet whether she will get vaccinated.
“I honestly don’t know,” she said.
Some other Kentucky school employees who died were also unvaccinated. Some family members and employers of Kentucky school staffers have not or would not discuss vaccination status with the Herald-Leader.