SMYRNA, Tenn. (WKRN) — It’s becoming a sad reality, as more than 20 school staff members have died from COVID-19 across Tennessee.

The staggering number comes as two Rutherford County teachers passed away over fall break. The district announced their deaths on Monday, in a Facebook post, stating “Our thoughts and prayers are with their loved ones.”

“The loss of any educator is heartbreaking. When we think about the loss of an educator to COVID-19, it’s especially hurtful as we continue to deal with the pandemic, and the impact of the pandemic on our schools, on our students,” said Beth Brown, President of the Tennessee Education Association.

Student learning is being impacted more than ever, but it’s not what’s happening in the classroom that is causing some concern. It’s the number of educators who are getting sick with the COVID-19 virus, and later dying.

According to the Tennessee Education Association, there is currently no organization or department keeping track of the total number of staff inside schools, who have died from COVID-19. The association has tracked more than 20 people during the fall semester.

“When you think about losing an educator, you are losing a pillar in the community, you are losing someone who on a daily basis, interacts with dozens, potentially hundreds of students, and so it’s not just the educator’s immediate families that are immediately impacted when we have such a tragedy,” said Brown.

Brown explained with students back in the classroom, it’s harder to maintain protocol to keep the virus at bay, including social distancing, mask-wearing or giving students the option to learn from home.

“With hybrid or virtual learning not an option this year, you have every student back in the building, and so, that really impedes a school’s ability to implement things like social distancing,” said Brown.

The latest deaths were announced this week. Two teachers from Rutherford County School District — one of them identified as Jennifer Morton.

“She had the biggest heart. She cared for her students. There were days she would call me and talk about her day at school. She would pinpoint a couple of kids that she would talk about how they made her feel as far as she accomplished something,” said Kevin Dunn, a close friend of Morton’s.

Morton, a mother to three boys, was an education assistant at Rocky Fork Middle School. Friends of hers called her death a “sudden loss.”

“Her being the person she is, you would think she would pull through and fight it off,” said Dunn. Those who knew Morton the most, say she loved her students and her children equally. She was an avid darts player in her spare time and enjoyed making others laugh.

Friends of Morton have set up a GoFundMe to help her sons with funeral arrangements.

A one-day fundraiser has been organized for Saturday, Oct. 16 in Morton’s honor. The event starts at 1 p.m. and will be held at Craftsman on the Hill at 3424 Lebanon Pike in Hermitage. All money raised will go towards the family.