Waco middle school principal dies from COVID-19

A Waco middle school principal has died after testing positive for COVID-19 earlier this week.

Waco ISD Superintendent Susan Kincannon confirmed the news in a letter to district families and employees Tuesday. 

"This has been a difficult day, and as it draws to close, I know that so many of us are mourning the loss of G.W. Carver Middle School Principal Phillip Perry," says the letter. "The process of grieving is made all the more difficult now, because we can’t come together to share memories and comfort one another in person."

The school district announced that Perry had tested positive for COVID-19 in a letter on Monday. According to the letter, he had been hospitalized. 

Kincannon said in Monday's letter that Perry had been on campus and at the administration building, as well as being present when the at-home learning kits were distributed to G.W. Carver families last week.

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"If you believe you have been in close contact with Mr. Perry since March 20, you should notify your healthcare provider, monitor for symptoms of COVID-19 (including a fever over 100.4, cough, and difficulty breathing), and self-isolate for 14 days from when you were last in close contact with him," the letter said. "You may want to take your temperature twice a day to monitor for a fever."

Monday's letter said the district was working with the Waco-McLennan County Public Health District and that they would contact anyone who had been in close, prolonged contact with Perry.

Tuesday's letter also contained information for students concerning Gov. Greg Abbott's recent announcement that schools would remain closed statewide until May 4, as well as how at-home instruction would proceed for each level and how GPA and class ranks would be used to determine honors such as valedictorian and salutatorian for the Class of 2020.

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Dear Waco ISD Families and Employees,

This has been a difficult day, and as it draws to close, I know that so many of us are mourning the loss of G.W. Carver Middle School Principal Phillip Perry. The process of grieving is made all the more difficult now, because we can’t come together to share memories and comfort one another in person.

In November, Mr. Perry sent me an email that included the observation that great leaders smile. That really does capture who he was as a campus leader. I don’t think that there was a time when I saw Mr. Perry that he wasn’t smiling. His students made him smile. His colleagues made him smile. The Carver community made him smile.

While our thoughts have been with Mr. Perry and all the lives that he touched, there have also been several other developments today that I want to share with you.

This afternoon, Governor Greg Abbott announced that schools would remain closed statewide until May 4. Accordingly, all Waco ISD campuses will remain closed until at least May 4. We will continue to consult with health experts and coordinate with other school districts in the Greater Waco area. If necessary, we will extend our closure beyond that date.

Our curriculum and instruction team has already been planning for this possibility, and on Monday, we will start a second phase of at-home instruction. Elementary students will be guided through grade-level specific instructional activities utilizing online programs that they’ve already been using in their classrooms.

Starting April 6 and continuing for the next two weeks, high school students will use online resources to focus on grade-level work in core content areas, including reviewing some key concepts. Beginning the week of April 20, high school students will shift into course-specific work reflecting the classes that they were enrolled in before our campuses closed. Students in Advanced Placement (AP) and career and technical education (CTE) courses will continue their learning through Google Classroom. 

Middle school students will receive a mix of grade-level and course-specific instruction depending on the classes in which they are enrolled. All of our students in special programs (including special education, advanced academics, dyslexia, bilingual and dual-language programs) will continue to receive additional support tailored to meet their unique needs. 

Moving forward, we're committed to making sure that all students have access to the instructional resources that they need to be successful - whether that's online or in a different format. We’re gathering information about the technology needs of our families, so we can make that commitment a reality.

We will be encouraging families to use resources already available to them, if possible, because we do not have enough devices to distribute one to every student in Waco ISD. However, next Monday, we expect to start distributing laptops and iPads to families that don’t have access to a device at home. We are also working on ways to support families without internet access at home. More details on when and where families can pick up a device will be coming later this week.

Finally, for the Class of 2020, the grade point average and class rank used to determine local honors (e.g., valedictorian and salutatorian) will be based on student work completed on or before March 6, 2020. This was the last day of instruction before spring break and our subsequent closures, and it was selected, in part, following guidance from the Texas Education Agency. This decision is limited to local honors and does not apply to class rank for the purpose of automatic college admission.

There is no doubt that these are challenging times, and today especially, it can feel like there isn’t much to smile about. Throughout this crisis, though, there have been brief moments when your commitment to our students and our community made me smile. I think Mr. Perry would have wanted us to find reasons to smile in each other. 


Susan Kincannon, Ed.D.


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