RUSSELLVILLE, Ark. – A Russellville School District bus driver died after contracting COVID-19. In Monday’s press conference, Governor Asa Hutchinson and Arkansas Department of Health’s Stephanie Williams addressed rumors about the timeline of when the bus driver got the virus and the precautions the district is taking.

Williams said they are still looking into it, but they believe the driver got the virus in the community before school started. During the first week, it progressed. Family members said he was taken to the hospital for congestive heart failure and over the weekend passed away. Russellville School District Superintendent Dr. Mark Gotcher said he was a model employee and this is impacting the entire district.

“We consider Mr. Terry a part of our family so we’ve lost a family member,” Gotcher said.

For years Terry Thacker sat in the driver’s seat, bringing special needs kids to and from school each day.

“What a fantastic employee he was and so he’ll be sorely missed,” Gotcher said.

According to the Arkansas Department of Health, Thacker had tested positive for COVID-19.

“We’re still checking into that situation but based on what we know now the testing time frame would seem to indicate that it wasn’t an infection that was contracted after the start of school but rather from the community then subsequently developed as the week progressed,” Williams said.

Gotcher said Thacker was driving up until Wednesday last week and they are working with the department of health and following all the guidelines. Currently, the district has 12 active positive cases among students and staff, 18 staff and 55 students are quarantined.

“With any probable close contact with any presumptive positive case with any positive case we contact the department of health,” Gotcher said.

Gotcher wants to take this time to remind parents and staff, this is a team effort and the precautions also need to be followed outside the classroom.

“It’s important that we avoid these large social gatherings in order to protect the kids of our district and employees of our district,” Gotcher said.

He also says it’s important to monitor yourself and your kids for any signs or symptoms.

“There are times that we would go to work with a cold or go to work with a scratchy throat and right now we’re not in a season to do that,” Gotcher said.

The district also posted a statement to their website.

“Dear RSD Community,

It is with great sadness that I share with you the passing of RSD bus driver,
Mr. Terry Thacker. Mr. Thacker drove one of our special needs buses along
with his wife, who served as an aide on his bus.

Our thoughts and prayers for his wife, Mrs. Louise Thacker, and their entire family, as they grieve his loss. Mr. Thacker will be greatly missed.

Dr. Mark Gotcher.”

Gotcher said all counselors are available for students who may need to talk about the loss of Thacker. They will continue posting updated COVID-19 numbers to their school website.