KENOSHA, Wisc. — Jeanne Hoffman, a staff member within the Kenosha Unified School district, believes she contracted COVID-19 while teaching in-person at school, and ultimately passed it along to her husband, who died from the virus in January.
"She is incredibly heartbroken, as anyone could imagine," said Kenosha Education Association President Tanya Kitts-Lewinski.
Kitts-Lewinski, a close friend of Hoffman, spoke on her friend’s behalf because she is too distraught over her husband’s death.
"She wants to make sure this never happens to anyone else in our district," Kitts-Lewinski said.
Kitts-Lewinski says Hoffman's husband, Jim, was at high-risk for COVID-19. But after using all of her medical leave, Hoffman had to return to school for in-person learning in December, where she says she contracted the virus.
"Within a week and a half of reporting to work, Jeanne contracted COVID, which she then inadvertently passed on to both her mother and her husband. Although Jim fought really hard for 19 days, he did not make it through," Kitts-Lewinski said.
Jim Hoffman died of COVID-19 on Jan. 4.
At the time of Jim Hoffman's death, the Kenosha school district was still using a "hybrid" of in-person and remote learning, but the district was ramping up for a return to full-person learning the following week. During a meeting of the Kenosha School Board on Jan. 6, teachers and parents gave their opinions about the district's scheduled return to in-person learning the following week.
Among them was the Kenosha Education Association executive director Kendra Koeppen-Mulwana, who shared a statement from Hoffman.
"Returning to in person before it safe to do so will lead to occurrences of more of the same tragedy that has needlessly struck my family," Hoffman's statement read.
At the time of the board meeting, Kitts-Lewinski said she was against a return to full in-person learning.
"Many educators are weighing their options right now. People who are pretty desperate have reached out to the district to ask what choices they have and they’re being told they can take unpaid leave," Kitts-Lewinski said.
The union claims another teacher, similar to Hoffman, also contracted COVID-19 in the classroom and passed it on to her husband, who died back in November.
"The district has always required anyone with COVID symptoms or a positive COVID test result to remain at home and We intend to continue with this practice going forward," a district spokesperson said in a statement.
The Kenosha Unified School District returned to full in-person learning in January.
This story was originally published by Taylor Lumpkin on TMJ4 in Milwaukee.