FLORENCE — A veteran South Carolina public school educator died Monday from complications of COVID-19, officials said — more than a month after she tested positive for the respiratory illness.
Marlene Evans was in the middle of her third year teaching kindergarten at Virtus Academy, a public charter school in Florence County, when she contracted COVID-19 in early December.
Evans had been placed on a ventilator at McLeod Regional Medical Center, WPDE-TV first reported.
Evans died about 10 p.m. Monday. She was 59.
She is at least the fourth Palmetto State educator to have died after contracting COVID-19.
Prior to her most recent position, Evans spent more than three decades working as an educator in South Carolina's public schools.
At Virtus Academy, which is overseen by the Charter Institute at Erskine, officials said in a statement that Evans' "love of teaching and passion for helping students led her back into the classroom" after her retirement.
Evans taught a group of kindergarten students at Virtus in person five days a week. Her last day in the classroom was Dec. 3. Evans tested positive for the virus on Dec. 6, according to school officials.
Cameron Runyan, superintendent of the Charter Institute, said there were no other reported COVID-19 cases in Evans' classroom prior to her diagnosis.
"Mrs. Evans lived with her heart on her sleeve and it showed in her classroom," Virtus Academy Interim Principal Brittany Hamilton said in a statement. "Every child who had Mrs. Evans as a teacher felt a true mother’s love and a dedicated teacher’s passion. Her legacy of love and passion for helping students will live on at Virtus Academy."
Evans would do anything it took it help a child learn or feel included, said Melissa Nettles, Evans' sister-in-law.
Evans and her husband were foster parents to teenagers before having children of their own, Nettles said.
"She touched so many lives," Nettles said. "She was a big personality who was very welcoming and giving. She was fun to be around and would stop what she was doing and help anyone that needed her."
Virtus Academy will have counselors available for students and employees.
The school switched all kindergarten students to online-only learning two weeks before winter break, which began Dec. 21.
As of Tuesday afternoon, there were five active cases of the virus associated with students and staff who tested positive over winter break, said Ashley Epperson, a spokeswoman for the Charter Institute at Erskine. All individuals are quarantining.
Editor's note: This story has been clarified to reflect that it is not known where Evans contracted the coronavirus.