By Nicole Nielsen

FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM) – Fort Worth ISD has confirmed two of their staff members have passed away this week due to COVID-19.

It’s not clear if either of the staff members caught COVID-19 on campus or if either had underlying health conditions.

According to a Facebook post from Southwest High School, it appears one of the two deaths happened on Monday, Sept. 13.

Richard Zarza was an engineering and robotics teacher, who the school district said passed away from COVID-19 after four years teaching at Southwest High.

Richard Zarza (credit: Southwest High School on Facebook)

Principal John Engle said, “Richard was an amazing educator. His passion for student success was evident in every part of our engineering program. His legacy will live on through the numerous lives he impacted.”

The name of the other staff member and school that person worked at has not been released by the school district.

“It’s devastating. Any time an employee loses their life to a disease that could be prevented by social distancing, wearing a mask, vaccines, it is absolutely devastating,” said Steven Poole, the Executive Director of United Educators Association.

Since the start of the year, Fort Worth ISD has had 476 positive employee cases, and no consistent mask mandate.

Poole said it’s a frightening reality many teachers face.

“Every time they walk into the classroom they’re putting their health on the line,” he said.

He said they’re receiving more calls than usual this year of teachers inquiring about ending their contracts.

“I can see the teacher turnover rate increasing not only in Fort Worth but in other districts across the state. This is something we are going to have to live with the long term effects of.”

Nicole Nielsen