Cole del Charco

Fletcher Fellow

Cole del Charco is WUNC’s Fletcher Fellow for education policy reporting. He grew up in Hickory, North Carolina, graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill with a B.A. from the School of Media and Journalism and spent his first year out of college working with WFAE, Charlotte’s NPR member station. Cole loves pine trees, sunny days and the mountains of North Carolina.

Tweets at @ColedelCharco

Ways to Connect

Monday marks the return of in person teaching at Wake County Public Schools. Students arrive at Davis Drive Elementary to temperature checks and health screenings in the carpool line.
Kate Medley / For WUNC

While COVID-19 surges across the state, schools are adjusting plans for in-person learning. But the tough calls have been left almost completely to local school districts, as state and federal agencies are offering only minimal guidance.

In a new county COVID alert system, the state distinguishes the counties with the highest levels of viral spread.
Governor Roy Cooper Twitter

Governor Roy Cooper is unveiling a new county-level alert system to highlight COVID-19 hotspots. Counties will be marked yellow, orange or red to indicate the severity of concern.

N.C. Department of Public Instruction
Dave DeWitt

Republican Catherine Truitt was elected North Carolina's next Superintendent of Public Instruction. She defeated Democratic candidate Jen Mangrum by a close margin last week. 

Monday marks the return of in-person teaching at Wake County Public Schools. Students arrive at Davis Drive Elementary to temperature checks and health screenings in the carpool line.
Kate Medley / for WUNC

Middle school students in the Wake County school district are set to return to classrooms on Monday.

Monday marks the return of in-person teaching at Wake County Public Schools. Students arrive at Davis Drive Elementary to temperature checks and health screenings in the carpool line.
Kate Medley / For WUNC

Many of Wake County's pre-K through third grade students returned to classrooms Monday. 

At Davis Drive Elementary School in Cary, it felt a bit like the first day of school.

A school classroom with desks that are socially distanced.
Keri Brown/WFDD

When school resumed in August, nearly half of all public-school students in North Carolina spent at least some time in-person, in a classroom. Now, more districts are looking to return to some face-to-face instruction. 

The people at the so-called 'Plan B' schools may have something to teach others about what has worked, and what hasn't.

Staff Photo, NC Raise Up/Fight for $15

Council members voted unanimously Monday night to push for federal programs they say would reduce racial inequality. Those include payments to descendants of enslaved African people, a universal basic income, living wage jobs for all citizens, and increasing the federal minimum wage to at least $15 per hour.

White man wearing a mask directing a group of students to come forward with hand motions
Wake County School System

Wake, Charlotte-Mecklenburg and Guilford Counties are among the state’s public school districts that have announced mid-fall reopening plans for elementary and middle school students. Each district intends to implement reopening differently based on their community’s size, distinct challenges and specific concerns. The reopening decisions come as a relief to some parents who have struggled to balance the demands of work and remote instruction. 

A Wake County Public Schools bus.
Brian Batista / For WUNC

Students will be returning to classrooms in Wake County next month.

Cole del Charco / WUNC

Camp Kanata, a YMCA overnight camp, would normally be empty during the week this time of the year. Instead, the camp outside the town of Wake Forest has been transformed. 

Students sitting on the North Carolina State campus wearing masks and socially distanced.
N.C. State University

Students at universities across North Carolina are struggling to maintain a normal campus life. For one particular group of students, the pandemic has created some special challenges.

An image of the bell tower at NCSU
Haruhide000 / Wikipedia Creative Commons

A week after students were told they could stay in their dorms, N.C. State officials have changed course and ordered students to move out of dorm rooms by Sep. 6.

Side photo of a North Carolina Public Schools bus.
NCDOT Communications

About 50 public school districts in North Carolina are returning this week with at least some in-person instruction. That's about one third of all the state's students, mostly in rural areas.

Fifth grade teacher Kelly Shearon teaches students online from her empty classroom at Lakewood Elementary in Durham on the first day of school, August 17, 2020.
Liz Schlemmer / WUNC

As part of WUNC's Series "Unprecedented," Liz Schlemmer will report throughout this semester from Lakewood Elementary in Durham.

Lakewood Elementary 5th grade teacher Kelly Shearon greets her class on the first day of school
Liz Schlemmer / WUNC

A majority of North Carolina public school districts are returning to school remotely Monday.

Laptop computer
Ian Usher / Flickr

A partnership between Wake County Public Schools, several nonprofits and local governments will provide childcare services for young students as school is set to begin remotely in less than two weeks, on Aug. 17.

Zhang / Flickr/Creative Commons

Alcohol sales hours at restaurants, breweries and distilleries in North Carolina will have a curfew starting Friday night.

Hal Goodtree, via Flickr / https://bit.ly/2OJVNQH

The Wake County School Board voted Tuesday to proceed with its "Plan B Transitional" plan for this fall.

That means students in all grades will start the year remotely.

Cole del Charco / WUNC

High school graduations across the state have taken a different form due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, as drive-throughs and virtual celebrations became the norm. Instead of walking across a stage, shaking hands and throwing caps into the air, the class of 2020 had to find new ways to celebrate.

Courtesy of Shayla Stewart

High school seniors are missing out on final milestones, performances and events that'd normally help mark the end of a signifcant chapter in their lives. For Shayla Stewart, a senior graduating from Western Guilford High School in Greensboro, missing prom is just one of the things she was looking forward to.

Christopher Holliday

The pandemic has had an especially harsh impact on high school seniors in North Carolina. They've missed events they can't get back, like final performances, sports seasons, proms and graduations. Still, many have shown resilience and hopefulness.

Virginia Hardy, East Carolina University vice chancellor of student affairs.
ECU

East Carolina University celebrated graduation online Friday morning. It's one of a number of modified college graduation ceremonies taking place in the state this weekend.

Ethan Guentensberger

The pandemic has had an especially harsh impact on high school seniors in North Carolina. They've missed events they can't get back, like final performances, sports seasons, proms and graduations. Still, many have shown resilience and hopefulness.

ICU bed modeling during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Sheps Center for Health Services Research

Updated modeling shows social distancing is working, and the spread of the coronavirus has slowed in North Carolina.

But that doesn't mean the state is in the clear.

Courtesy Brooke Cox

The pandemic has had an especially harsh impact on high school seniors in North Carolina. They've missed events they can't get back, like final performances, sports seasons, proms and graduations. Still, many have shown resilience and hopefulness.

WUNC reporter Cole del Charco has been collecting some of their stories, and will share them on a regular basis over the next few weeks. The first perspective comes from senior Brooke Cox from South Point High School in Belmont.

North Carolina Emergency Management Director Mike Sprayberry
N.C. Department of Public Safety

In a briefing Monday afternoon, state Emergency Management Director Mike Sprayberry said North Carolina has much of the personal protective equipment needed for healthcare workers to conduct ongoing COVID-19 testing.

A view of Glenwood South, a normally bustling part of downtown Raleigh, almost completely empty due to COVID-19.
Jason deBruyn / WUNC

Governor Roy Cooper is responding to the new guidelines for reopening the country announced by President Trump. 

In a state briefing Friday afternoon, Cooper said he was glad to see that the president's criteria largely mirror what North Carolina is doing. And the governor said decisions about easing restrictions will depend on testing.

Health Secretary Mandy Cohen and Governor Roy Cooper
N.C. Department of Public Safety

The state is considering how and when residents and businesses will be able to return to life as normal, even if normal will be forever changed. 

While officials in the Cooper administration point out the coronavirus will be a threat until there's a vaccine, they acknowledge current social distancing policies can't go on forever.

A facemask created by a 3D printer at N.C. State University.
N.C. State University

Amid a national shortage of personal protective equipment during the coronavirus pandemic, UNC experts say health care systems may have to mitigate the problem by re-using PPE or producing supply from available materials.

N.C. Governor Roy Cooper and N.C. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen.
N.C. Department of Public Safety

Governor Roy Cooper addressed questions Monday afternoon about the timeline for loosening social distancing measures and getting North Carolina businesses up and running again. 

Cooper said his administration is considering how and when to ease up to boost the economy while still preventing hospitals from being overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients.

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