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As classes resume, challenges persist. How are you doing?

Welcome to Awake58. Thank you for sticking with us. If you missed last week’s newsletter regarding colleges’ responses to COVID-19, click here.

We want to know your questions as classes resume at colleges across NC … Caldwell Community College and Google partner as part of the COVID-19 response … NC public schools are now closed until May 15 at least … We interviewed President Pro Tem Senator Phil Berger… 

Community college campuses largely remained empty across the state as the week began, but hundreds of thousands of students are now being educated online. With public schools remaining closed until at least May 15, plus a stay at home order from Gov. Cooper’s office, it’s clear that we are going to remain in uncharted territory for some time.

In recent weeks, I had the chance to catch up with presidents and administrators across the state to hear both their concerns and the solutions they have begun to implement.

Community colleges have expanded online course offerings in recent years — including hybrid courses featuring a combination of face-to-face instruction and online course delivery. But for many of the colleges, quickly moving their entire course catalog online was still a significant challenge for faculty and administrators alike.

We just published a piece sharing the thoughts of community colleges from across the state. I hope you will give it a read and share your own cares and concerns.

All 58 community colleges have moved rapidly to meet the moment. And now that you are living through the new normal: How are you? What’s on your mind? How are you feeling about … everything? 

I would love to know the answers to those questions. Just respond directly to this email. We envision Awake58 as a conversation starter each week, so please join in.



Director of Growth,

What are your questions?

What do you want to know about community colleges and COVID-19? wants to answer your questions. Since the COVID-19 outbreak has given way to a new day-to-day reality for millions of students and teachers, we know there are a lot of questions on what happens now and in the future.

Google and Caldwell Community College join to address students’ remote-learning needs

Colleges across the state are working to address student needs as courses shift online. Caldwell Community College moved quickly to expand its partnership with Google to make Chromebooks available to students who needed a device to continue their education.

The college has sought to understand its students’ needs as the landscape has shifted. As of last Thursday, as my colleague Eric Frederick reports after talking with Caldwell president Mark Poarch: “111 students in curriculum courses said … that they didn’t have internet access, 78 said they didn’t have devices, and 40 said they lacked both. Those numbers, which Poarch is sharing with Google to help shape its response, don’t include students in workforce development or adult education.”

The college distributed 50 Chromebooks donated by Google on the first day of the initiative and hopes to deploy more soon. In addition, it is working with Google on some novel approaches for expanding broadband access. For more details on the partnership, click here.

Q&A with President Pro Tem Sen. Phil Berger

My colleague Rupen Fofaria had the opportunity to sit down with Sen. Phil Berger for an in-depth interview on education policy, reading, and his own educational journey. 

Berger closed the interview answering Rupen’s question: How do you think the way we teach reading in North Carolina schools will change?

“I think it’s going to have to happen from the top down, in many respects. First of all, the state in North Carolina is more involved in the funding of schools than in other states. You go to places like New Jersey, Connecticut, they get a lot more of their money for their schools from their local property taxes whereas in North Carolina the bulk of the funding comes from the state. I think, if the funding is coming from the state, then the state naturally needs to be involved in the policy. Otherwise, I think the potential is you’re going to get more of the uneven results. We have a state constitution that guarantees the opportunity for basic education, not just in Wake County, not just in Guilford County, but all of North Carolina. So I think for that reason, our system is set up to be more top-down than otherwise. And I’m a Republican and I believe in local control. And I think that’s important, but I just think if the money is coming from the state, the state’s going to be held responsible. And if the state’s going to be held responsible, I think the state needs to have a big say in what the policy is.”

For more of the interview, click here.

An open letter to the Class of 2020 from EdNC

We’ve found ourselves thinking a lot about high school seniors and students who hoped to participate in commencement at community colleges or four-year universities this spring. Walking the stage to graduate, participating in prom, and competing in spring sports are among the rites of spring that many students may well be denied due to COVID-19.

We were thinking of them as we built our own small offering for each of them during this challenging time. Over the course of several days, our team gathered thoughts, advice, music recommendations, reading lists, and even brownie recipes for them. You can read our open letter by clicking here. Please consider forwarding it to the students in your life.

I’ve found myself thinking about the students who grew up in the shadow of 9/11, began to come of age as their parents struggled through the Great Recession, and now are seeing huge moments in their early lives being overwhelmed by necessary societal shifts in the face of the pandemic. It is something our society will wrestle with for years.

One perspective worth your time: Why NC is ready for what comes next

Matt Bristow-Smith is principal at Edgecombe Early College High and the 2019 Wells Fargo North Carolina Principal of the Year. And he crafted a perspective that I highly recommend. His closing grabbed my attention:

“We are challenging 100,000 North Carolina educators to do something never done before — to teach and inspire and love our 1.5 million public school children and to leave no child behind — even though our buildings are closed. We are engaging parents and families as the true stakeholders you are by setting up remote home schools at kitchen tables across our state.

We will flatten the curve. We will feed and educate children. We will innovate our way through this pandemic. And we will be stronger together on the other side.”

But you really should read the whole piece by clicking over to

Around NC

My colleague Liz Bell has a great piece out exploring the reality of child care centers during COVID-19. Among other individuals who work in early childhood, Bell caught up with Dan Wuori from the Hunt Institute, who noted the “essential” nature of child care workers during COVID-19 and told her, “This crisis is really bringing into focus a lot of the long-term challenges that the child care industry in particular has faced in a way that will be interesting to watch and see how that translates to longer-term action as this immediate crisis dies down.” …

Check out the just released US Census Bureau attainment data. …

The Morganton News-Herald profiles the next president of Western Piedmont, Joel Welch, as he prepares for his transition during COVID-19. …

Some good news for Lenoir Community College: “The Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration is awarding a $2 million grant to Lenoir Community College in Kinston to support the renovation of the Business Technology Building to become the Floyd Health Sciences Building.” …

The Golden LEAF Foundation announced $15 million in funding to launch a rapid recovery loan program in response to economic losses related to the coronavirus. Golden LEAF funding will support the NC COVID-19 Rapid Recovery Loan Program by enabling loans to eligible businesses for up to $50,000 with zero interest and no payments for six months. For more on the program, check out the press release from Golden LEAF.

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Nation Hahn

Nation Hahn is the chief of growth for EducationNC.