Milby High School chemistry teacher Erick Ortiz dies from COVID-19, family says

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- A Milby High School teacher has died from COVID-19, according to family members.

Erick Ortiz, 52, taught chemistry at Milby High School. His family said he had been teaching in-person at the campus since everyone returned.

According to the family, Ortiz tested positive for COVID-19 on Nov. 8, contacted the district about it and was hospitalized on Nov.10. He died on Dec. 6.

"We found out the next day all of his students were in the classroom with a substitute teacher," said Ortiz's sister-in-law Laura Heredia. "We're not sure they were notified."

His family wonders whether Ortiz contracted the virus while at school, and whether the school has been following proper notification protocol.

Heredia said HISD has yet to respond to their requests for copies of any communication that was sent to parents, student and staff about Ortiz's positive case or previous ones.

Friday, HISD provided ABC13 with a copy of an automated callout that was placed on Sunday, Nov. 8, alerting Milby High School that a person at the school had been diagnosed with COVID-19.

The district said they are not allowed to identify the person. Milby High School roughly has about 1,800 students, teachers and staff. On average, district-wide, 40% of students are doing in-person learning.

HISD released the following statement regarding Ortiz:

"The Houston Independent School District is deeply saddened to learn of the death of one of our beloved Milby High School teachers. We extend our sincere condolences to the teacher's family, friends, and students. Counselors have been made available for as long as they are needed, on campus and virtually, to provide support to students and staff."

Ortiz was a married father of three children. He taught in the Houston-area for 23 years. Heredia says her family will continue to press for answers.

"It's been heartbreaking. This has broken the whole family," she said. "He was a wonderful father, wonderful husband, a wonderful brother-in-law. He was an awesome teacher."

Heredia has set up a GoFundMe to help her sister and her family.

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