LEANDER, Texas — A nutrition services member at Leander ISD has died due to complications from the coronavirus, according to a letter released to Akin Elementary School families.
The letter identifies the employee as Lillian Gallagher, a two-year member of the Child Nutrition Services team.
Rebecca Webster, Akin Elementary School principal, and Steve Smith, director of Child Nutrition Services, described her as a "valued member" of the team and said she had a "very sweet and caring way" toward both students and staff.
The full letter can be read below:
Dear Akin Elementary School families,
It is with heavy hearts that we write to inform you of the unexpected death of Lillian Gallagher, a valued member of our Child Nutrition Services team for the last two school years. Her passing has affected our campus community deeply, as Lillian had a very sweet and caring way towards children and staff alike.
While we ask you to please respect the privacy of Lillian’s family, we know there are concerns regarding health and safety during the current COVID-19 pandemic. We do know she died from complications due to COVID. Mrs.Gallagher was not at work over the summer and has not been on campus since March.
While never easy, the grieving process will be even more difficult as we are not able to physically gather and support each other. Young children often react differently to traumatic events such as this, even if they did not know the individual well. Our school counselor has reminded us that it is important to allow children to express their feelings. We encourage you to do the same and offer these helpful tips for parents provided by the National Association of School Psychologists.
Provide opportunities to express thoughts and feelings about death through play activities and drawing.
Answer questions using concrete descriptions and be prepared for repeated questions. Older students may ask more detailed questions to try to understand what happened.
Some children may feel less comfortable showing feelings and seeing expressions of grief in others. Make sure to provide these students with a variety of ways to express grief.
Use words like “death,” “die,” or “dying” in your conversations and avoid euphemisms such as “they went away,” “they are sleeping,” “departed,” and “passed away.” Such euphemisms are abstract and may be confusing, especially for younger children.
Watch for changes in your child’s behavior.
Our school counselor, Beth Lehn, is available as a resource for students. Please contact her at email@example.com, and she will set up video or phone opportunities for support, depending on your family’s preference.
We understand there will be a variety of emotions and responses to Mrs. Gallagher’s passing. The most important thing we can do is to be supportive and encourage the open expression of feelings. Please reach out to us if you have additional questions or if we can help. We know you join us in our concern and sympathy for the Gallagher family.
With sincere condolences,
Akin Elementary School Principal
Director of Child Nutrition Services
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