Brooklyn Park charter school principal dies after COVID-19 battle

The principal of a charter school in Brooklyn Park, Minnesota died Friday after a month-long battle with COVID-19. 

Choua Yang, the principal of Prairie Seeds Academy, took the threat of the coronavirus very seriously. Students at the school have been exclusively doing distance learning since the start of the school year. 

“Of all people, she was very careful about social distancing, about making smart and wise decisions, about not letting her guard down,” Tou Ger Xiong, a staff member at the school, said. 

Yang battled COVID-19 for four weeks, the last three of which she spent hooked up to a ventilator. 

Her family says she died Friday at the age of 53, 16 years after she and her husband started Prairie Seeds Academy, known as one of a handful of Hmong cultural language schools throughout the country.

“Choua and her husband saw the vision to create a school where Hmong speaking families could come and feel a sense of home, somewhere where their narrative is included and is important,” Xiong said. 

Yang was best known as a passionate educator and caring principal. A refugee herself, she built a school that embraced students of all cultural backgrounds.

“Some principals, they lock themselves in their office and get caught up with the administrative work. She’s very hands on and very interactive with the students so a lot of the students see her as a mother or grandmother figure,” Xiong said. 

Her family now hopes their loss will remind others of how serious the virus is. 

“If this happened to someone who was at the top of her game as far as social distancing, maybe we should take a step back and ask ourselves: are we doing enough to protect our students?” Xiong said. 

A few other staff members at Prairie Seeds have also tested positive for COVID-19, but it is unclear if the cases are related. Staff have been at the school in a limited capacity leading up to the school year, but students have not been in the building.