Ballou STAY cosmetology teacher passes away from COVID-19

D.C. Public Schools is mourning the loss of a beloved teacher. Mrs. Helen White reportedly passed away over the weekend as a result of COVID-19. 

She was a cosmetology teacher at Ballou STAY, which is an adult education program. 

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On Monday, the school put out a statement saying the Ballou family is in shock. They say White taught at the school for the past 14 years but has been a well-known member of the community for decades. 

A family member tells FOX 5 that White grew up in the Barry Farms neighborhood and owned a hair salon for several years right near "The Big Chair" on Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue in Anacostia. 

The principal at Ballou said in the letter that White was more than just an instructor and taught more than just cosmetology. She also taught others how to be a good mother, a better sibling, and how to better support and strengthen each other. 

Family members started a GoFundMe page for financial help. 

Mrs. Helen White

White returned to teaching in person at Ballou STAY in October. 

The D.C. Teachers' Union says there are multiple reports that she asked to continue working from home during the pandemic for underlying health reasons but was denied. 

Union members are also questioning how many students she had in her classroom at one time. 

FOX 5 asked DCPS those questions and we’re waiting for a response.

To date, 105 DCPS staff members have tested positive for COVID-19 – 57 of those cases are since the beginning of January. 

As for students who have been doing some form of in-person learning, there have been 31 positive cases. – 15 of those since the start of 2021.

The leader of the teachers' union says she’s been receiving calls from devastated teachers since Saturday when White passed away. Many were unaware she had been in ICU for several days. 

The principal says emotional support will be made available for anyone who requests it.