Hillpoint Elementary student dies of COVID-19

Published 2:06 pm Wednesday, September 29, 2021

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Teresa Makenzie Sperry, a 10-year old fifth-grader at Hillpoint Elementary School, has become the first child in Suffolk and the Western Tidewater Health District to die of COVID-19.

In a Facebook post on her personal page, Sperry’s mother, Nicole, wrote that her family “left a huge piece of our hearts” at Children’s Hospital of the King’s Daughters.

“We did everything we could have done and now we’ve lost part of our hearts. Covid is real and it doesn’t care who it takes,” Nicole Sperry wrote.

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A PayPal Money Pool account has been established to help the Sperry family with funeral and other expenses (Link: https://bit.ly/sperryfamily)

In a Sept. 28 letter to the Suffolk Public Schools community, Superintendent Dr. John B. Gordon III confirmed the child’s death, but said out of respect for the family, it would not release her name.

“It is with great sadness that I share with you that a student at Hillpoint Elementary School passed away,” Gordon wrote. “Our sincere condolences and thoughts go out to the family and friends of our student.”

Statewide, the Virginia Department of Health had reported 11 deaths as of Sept. 28 among children ages birth to 19, seven of them ages 10 to 19. None of those had been in the Western Tidewater Health District, which includes Suffolk, Franklin, Southampton County and Isle of Wight County, and the totals do not yet include Teresa’s death. The 7-day positivity rate in Western Tidewater is 14.1%.

There has been one death of a child aged 10 to 19 years old in Norfolk, but no others in South Hampton Roads health districts or the neighboring Peninsula Health District or the Crater Health District, which includes Surry County.

SPS has reported increasing COVID-19 positive case counts since early August, and in the first four weeks of school, case counts have been higher than at any point since June 2020, when it began posting cases to a dashboard on its website. It notes that one case does not equal one person, as one person could have been in multiple buildings.

For the week of Sept. 6 to Sept. 12, it had 27 cases at 13 schools. The week of Sept. 13 to Sept. 19, it had 45 cases at 16 schools. In the most recent reporting week, from Sept. 20 to Sept. 26, there were 60 cases, among them 10 at Northern Shores Elementary School, seven at Florence Bowser Elementary School, six at Mack Benn Jr. Elementary School and five at both Nansemond River High School and Elephant’s Fork Elementary School.

Hillpoint Elementary reported two cases each for the weeks of Sept. 6 to Sept. 12 and Sept. 20 to Sept. 26.

Gordon said parents who notice their children having difficulties dealing with the child’s death should try to have them “discuss their thoughts and feelings to help them work through their grief or concerns.”

“This is a difficult time for everyone,” Gordon wrote, “but I know our students and staff will lean on each other as they fondly remember their classmate.”