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Leading a school during COVID-19 means lifting a community

School. For me, the word conjures mental images often associated with education: classrooms, book bags, a yellow school bus. We expect schools to educate our children. But it’s hard to educate children whose needs aren’t being met at home.

I recently spoke with principals across North Carolina about how COVID-19 has impacted their schools. One theme that came up repeatedly was that schools provide far more than just an education. A hot meal, a change of clothes, or warmth — both physical and emotional — can change the trajectory of a life.

As schools around the state closed to prevent the spread of the virus, families who depend on these support systems were left isolated. Schools have risen to the challenge, stretching their limited resources to bring students meals, internet access, clothing, love, and, even still, academic instruction.

The pandemic hasn’t been easy for anyone, but the principals I talked to seemed optimistic about the future and proud of the progress their faculty and staff had made so far. By embracing the challenges of digital learning today, these educators feel more prepared for the future of school, whatever that may look like.

Watch our conversations in Alone Together, a short video series, below.

Episode 1 — The shift to digital learning

Episode 2 — Supporting students from a distance

Episode 3 — Positive outcomes of the pandemic

For more coverage of North Carolina’s school leaders and the issues they face, check out the recommended articles below. To view all of EdNC’s coverage on COVID-19, visit this page.

Robert Kinlaw

Robert was director of multimedia for EducationNC. He is a journalist and award-winning documentary filmmaker in the Triangle. Robert attended both public and private grade schools in North Carolina and graduated from the Media and Journalism school at UNC-Chapel Hill. He has produced video content for The News & Observer, ABC11-WTVD, UNC-Chapel Hill, The News Reporter and more. His short documentary Princess Warrior received an Excellence in Filmmaking award at the 2017 Carrboro Film Festival. Visit his website at