Teacher dies of COVID-19 as school year looms

Local News

OGDEN, Utah (ABC4 News) – A teacher at Ben Lomond High School died from COVID-19 last month, even as plans are underway for students and staff to return to classrooms in the age of coronavirus.

Darla Checketts was 57 years old.

“It’s devastating for everyone — it’s just such a hard loss,” said friend and fellow teacher Tamara Brown-Johansen.

“She’d gone to the doctor the night before, and the doctor gave her some cough stuff — and said well you’re not sick enough to put in the hospital. And she died the next morning,” added Brown-Johansen.

Checketts had taught Family and Consumer Science for the last five years at Ben Lomond. Her life, friends and family say, was centered around giving.

“That’s what kind of person she was,” said Brown-Johansen.

Checketts had taught for most of her life, even teaching in West Africa through the Peace Corps. She was heavily involved in her Ward, serving as Relief Society President and Compassionate Service leader. She was the mother of five children.

“She was amazing, she really was,” said Brown-Johansen.

Her sudden death is a reminder of the devastating consequences around COVID-19, even as students and teachers will soon share hallways and classrooms inside Ben Lomond High School.

“It’s giving me so much anxiety and I’ve never been this way. I just can hardly sleep. It’s giving me so much anxiety worrying about bringing them back, and keeping people well. I don’t know what we’d do if we lost a kid. Honestly, it was so hard to lose Darla. What if we lost a kid. I don’t know what we’d do. How could we ever justify returning?” said Brown-Johansen.

Jer Bates, Ogden School District spokesperson, denied ABC4’s request for an on camera interview, as well as a request to interview school officials, for this story.

In emails, he wrote:

“The loss of any student, teacher or school employee is a heartbreaking situation. We encourage those who will miss her the most to remember Mrs. Checketts for the positive impact she made in her school and community. We ask that her memory be honored by expressing kindness, caring and inclusion, just as she did.

As with any tragic occurrence, our counseling and support staff members have been and will remain available to the students and colleagues who might struggle with the loss of a friend.”

“The Ogden School District remains as committed as ever to our mission of maximizing educational opportunities for all students in a safe, nurturing environment. There may have never been a greater obligation of this District to deliver on that commitment than there is now.”

– Superintendent Dr. Rich Nye

Through the application of feedback from students, parents and educators, Ogden School District has developed Keeping Ogden Healthy. This is a framework that leverages all available resources to maximize educational opportunities for our students, while mitigating the spread of covid-19. The foundation of Keeping Ogden Healthy is six key areas: Sanitation & Hygiene, Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), Physical Distancing, Student Well-Being, Staff Well-Being, and Student Learning & Engagement.

Using these six foundational areas, Ogden School District has established opportunities for in-person learning as well as online instruction. Our goal is to address both the academic and social-emotional needs of our unique demographic of students to ensure that families and employees receive the support they need.

Nick McGurk
Nick McGurk is an Emmy Award winning journalist and a Utah native — and he couldn’t be happier to be covering news, and raising a family, in his home state.
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