Liz Schlemmer

Education Reporter

Liz Schlemmer is WUNC's Education Reporter, covering preschool through higher education. She has previously served as the Fletcher Fellow for Education Policy Reporting at WUNC and as the education reporter at Louisville Public Media. She holds an M.A. from the Hussman School of Journalism and Media at UNC Chapel Hill and a B.A. in history and anthropology from Indiana University. Liz is originally from rural Indiana, where she grew up with a large extended family of educators.
 

woman on phone with a mask on
Liz Schlemmer

With no students in the building due to the coronavirus pandemic, notes sent home by a teacher in a student's backpack are no longer an option. Emails and automated voice messages can get lost in the chaos. So to reach families with vital information, staff and volunteers at Lakewood Elementary in Durham are picking up their phones.

Duke University Chapel
Bill Snead / Duke University

Duke University has managed to avoid major COVID-19 outbreaks by enforcing standard precautions, robust testing and contact tracing.

North Carolina A&T State University student body president Brenda Caldwell says she wanted to attend an HBCU because of the "familial culture" and she thinks that culture is helping her university weather the pandemic.
Liz Schlemmer / WUNC

North Carolina A&T State University is the largest historically Black college or university, or HBCU, in the country. With 12,000 students, it's about average for the UNC System, yet it has one of the lowest rates of COVID-19 spread among public universities in the state.

Students there have some ideas about why the school is, so far, managing the pandemic well.

Charles Jacocks, rear, along with his wife Carrie and incoming freshman Ann Grace, right, carry their belongings as college students begin moving in for the fall semester at N.C. State University in Raleigh, N.C., Friday, July 31, 2020.
Gerry Broome / AP

A new study links college reopenings to spikes in COVID-19 cases across the country. The study is co-authored by UNC Greensboro economics professor Martin Andersen, Davidson College education professor Chris Marsicano and others. Marsicano is also the Director of the College Crisis Initiative.

Liz Schlemmer

Despite the pandemic, the UNC System reached record-high enrollment this fall for the third year in a row —  and that's good news for the university system's bottom line.

Overall, the UNC System saw a 1% increase from last year's enrollment.

"In any other year, that might be a completely ordinary bit of news," said UNC System President Peter Hans, "And yet, in this year of unprecedent disruption across our state — across our world — I think that's an extraordinary achievement."

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

North Carolina elementary schools will soon be allowed to return to daily, in-person classes, Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper announced on Thursday.

School districts will be allowed to welcome back kindergarten through fifth grade students at full capacity, if they choose.

Courtesy of UNC System

The UNC System president will now have more say in choosing new chancellors when vacancies arise at the system's 17 campuses.

On Wednesday, UNC Board of Governors approved a major change to its policy on chancellor searches, at the request of Peter Hans, the UNC System's new president.

Liz Schlemmer / WUNC

 

Walking through the University of North Carolina Wilmington’s campus, some things feel like a normal fall semester, with familiar sights like student volunteers running a voter registration drive.

Other things look very different.

Liz Schlemmer

 

 

The gym at Lakewood Elementary in Durham was buzzing earlier this week with families coming to pick up math workbooks, hotspots and laptops on the school’s final day of device distribution.

This is the second week of virtual learning at Durham Public Schools, but distribution was delayed after shipments of Chromebooks were held up at U.S. Customs — one of many unforeseen events in a school year marked by a pandemic.

photo of drive-thru coronavirus testing in Chatham County
Staff Sgt. Mary Junell / U.S. Army Photo

While UNC-Chapel Hill moves all of its undergraduate classes online this week due to a recent spike in COVID-19 cases among its students, several other universities in the UNC System are facing smaller outbreaks.

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.

Courtesy Jon Gardiner / UNC-Chapel Hill

A group of university staff and faculty have filed a lawsuit against the UNC System to seek safer working conditions during the coronavirus pandemic. The plaintiffs are asking for a Wake County Superior Court judge to grant them class action status, and to step in on behalf of all UNC System employees.

Liz Schlemmer / WUNC

Amanni King sits at the front desk of a residence hall at Fayetteville State University, killing time while she waits for students. She's a resident assistant and her first move-in day of the pandemic feels slow compared to the usual welcoming.

The Old Well on the UNC- Chapel Hill campus.
Brian Batista / For WUNC

The UNC-Chapel Hill Board of Trustees has voted to remove the names from four campus buildings that honored men who supported White supremacy in their careers and political lives.

The Board voted 11-to-2 to rename buildings named for Charles Aycock, Julian Carr, Josephus Daniels and Thomas Ruffin, Sr.

Liz Schlemmer

Five years after the state Supreme Court declared North Carolina's largest private school voucher program constitutional, public school advocates have filed another lawsuit challenging Opportunity Scholarships.

Seven parents have signed on as plaintiffs in a lawsuit filed Monday, including the current president and recent vice president of the North Carolina Association of Educators.

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Ronda Taylor Bullock and her nine-year-old son Zion talk about issues of racism and their involvement in the movement calling for change in the U.S. in the wake of recent killings of black people.
Kate Medley / For WUNC

Ronda Taylor Bullock co-founded "We Are," a Durham-based non-profit committed to anti-racist education. Ronda is a former Durham Public Schools teacher who focuses on teaching children of all skin colors how to talk about racism and being anti-racist.

She runs an annual summer camp, often attended by her son Zion, who is nine years old. In this installment of our series "Calling for Change," Ronda and Zion get together to ask each other some questions.

Courtesy of LeKeshia Liles

COVID-19 outbreaks are springing up at a handful of childcare centers across North Carolina, threatening a vulnerable workforce of women who are largely low-paid and often uninsured.

The Old Well on the UNC- Chapel Hill campus.
Brian Batista / For WUNC

A UNC Chapel Hill commission voted Friday to recommend removing the names of four prominent white supremacists from campus buildings. The resolution will go to university Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz and the UNC Chapel Hill Board of Trustees for consideration.

Danita Mason-Hogans seated on the porch at the Duke Center for Documentary Studies
Liz Schlemmer / WUNC

Danita Mason-Hogans traces back her family's roots in Chapel Hill seven generations on both sides.

"My family's history is deeply connected to the University," Mason-Hogans said.

Her father's side of the family were Masons and Nunns, two prominent family names in Chapel Hill connected to a plantation that was where the current UNC-Chapel Hill Friday Center stands. Her grandfather worked 53 years at the Carolina Inn and her mother was one of the first Black admissions officers at the University.

Andrew Harnik, File / AP Photo

Landlords in North Carolina can begin filing evictions this week, after a statewide moratorium on eviction proceedings lifted Monday. That means a wave of North Carolina tenants could soon face eviction hearings in court.

Peter Hans, the newly elected president of the N.C. Community College System, delivers remarks while North Carolina Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Berger, from left, House Speaker Tim Moore and Gov. Roy Cooper listen during a news conference in Raleigh
Gerry Broome / AP

 

The current president of the North Carolina Community College System Peter Hans will take the helm of the University of North Carolina System beginning in August.

Courtesty of Cassandra Brooks

 

Cassandra Brooks owns and operates The Little Believer's Academy, with daycare centers in Clayton and Garner. After working a corporate job at IBM, it was her dream to start her own business caring for children.

Gerry Broome / AP Photo

The board of trustees at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill voted Wednesday to end a moratorium on renaming campus buildings and landmarks.

StockSnap / Pixabay Creative Commons


Colleges and universities across North Carolina – and across the country – are developing plans and backup plans for how to conduct classes this fall during the coronavirus pandemic. All are weighing safety and health risks with financial realities, and the realities of college life. 

Pallbearers bring the body of George Floyd into Cape Fear Conference B Headquarters of the United American Free Will Baptist Denomination in Raeford, N.C. for a public viewing and private memorial on Saturday, June 6.
Kate Medley / For WUNC

Updated at 9 p.m. ET

A line of mourners wrapped around a Raeford, N.C. church and extended down the highway Saturday, as thousands paid their last respects to George Floyd. 

Two African-American students at St. Augustine's University interact in front of a laptop computer.
Courtesy of St. Augustine's University

 

Maria Lumpkin was drawn to St. Augustine's University years ago. She remembers driving into campus for the first time and seeing the historic stone chapel, quarried and built in 1895 by students who were just one generation free from slavery.

The Old Well and flowers on the campus of UNC- Chapel Hill.
Brian Batista / For WUNC

Universities in the UNC System are beginning to release early plans for how they might reopen their campuses to students and faculty in the fall.

Courtesy of Trey Roberts

Over one million North Carolinians have student loan debt, and the average borrower owes about $25,000. Even under normal circumstances, education debt can be prohibitive. 

calculator with the word college
Jake Rustenhoven / Flickr Creative Commons

Josmell Pérez has a master's degree and has gone through the process of buying a home - more than once - but he says it's still hard to wrap his head around student loans.

'The mortgage system, credit cards, other parts of finance make a whole lot more sense," Pérez said.

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