May 8, 2020

Need to know: COVID-19

For more, view all of EdNC’s COVID-19 coverage here.

Reopening: Phase I is here

When you read this, North Carolina will officially be in Phase I of reopening. What does that actually mean? The graphic below from Gov. Cooper’s May 5 press conference shows what has changed now that we’re in Phase I. Bars, gyms, theaters, and salons are still closed, but retail and most businesses can now open. Child care centers can also open for all working parents and those looking for child care, not just essential workers.

Screen Shot 2020 05 08 at 10.42.51 AM

Since last week, North Carolina has improved slightly on the metrics the state is tracking to inform the reopening plan. The trajectory of COVID-like syndromic cases is now decreasing along with the share of tests that are positive. However, new cases in North Carolina are still slightly increasing and hospitalizations are level but not yet decreasing. Additionally, North Carolina has doubled the daily testing rate and is hiring 250 new contact tracers. The state’s supply of personal protective equipment is stable for everything but hospital gowns.

Screen Shot 2020 05 08 at 11.49.19 AM

So, what’s next? Phase I is in effect until 5 p.m. on May 22. The state will continue monitoring the metrics above to determine if we can move to Phase II after that.

Policy challenge: Reopening for colleges and universities

At many of North Carolina’s colleges and universities, including community colleges, students are finishing final exams and wrapping up the spring semester this week and next. After the massive task of moving classes online midway through the spring semester, schools are now turning their attention to the fall. While no one really knows what school will look like come fall, here are some things colleges are considering.

Online versus face-to-face instruction:

Starting today, May 8, North Carolina community colleges are allowed to resume some face-to-face courses for the remainder of the spring term and the summer term, as long as colleges follow CDC guidance on social distancing and health protections. These classes include those that are hardest to teach online and critical for the state: health care courses, transportation courses, maintenance courses (HVAC and welding), infrastructure courses (construction and electric lineman), and manufacturing courses, such as food processing and health care supply manufacturing.

Many community colleges across the country are maintaining online courses this summer and even this fall with the exception of career and technical education courses like those listed above that require in-person instruction. This article from Community College Daily outlines how various colleges are thinking about reopening.

Modified schedules:

East Carolina University announced today that it will shift to block scheduling for the fall 2020 and spring 2021 semesters. Students will still take the same number of classes, but instead of taking them concurrently from August to December, they will take half during the first eight weeks of the semester and half during the second eight weeks.

“The block scheduling format will allow us to be more flexible and nimble in our approach as we plan for fall classes and implement the necessary adaptations to keep our students, faculty and staff healthy and safe,” ECU said in the statement.

Virtual reality campus tours:

Colleges are not just thinking about the students already signed up for next year, but also recruiting the next class in a time when prospective students may not be able to physically visit campuses. The Conversation published an article this week highlighting North Carolina’s virtual reality app that allows students to take virtual tours of any UNC System college. According to their website, the GEAR UP VR app intends to include tours of North Carolina community colleges and possibly private institutions. Check it out here.

These are just a few of the many factors colleges are taking into consideration as they make plans for next school year. Over at, we will continue reporting on these developments.

  • Virtual reality campus visits let students connect with colleges during COVID-19

    The Conversation | 05/06/2020

  • Kizzmekia Corbett spent her life preparing for this moment. Can she create the vaccine to end a pandemic?

    Washington Post | 05/06/2020

  • Mapping Read To Achieve: How did districts fare last year?

    EducationNC | 05/04/2020

  • A Guide to Staying Safe as States Reopen

    The Atlantic | 05/07/2020

  • Why Meatpacking Plants Have Become Covid-19 Hot Spots

    Wired | 05/07/2020

  • New Data: Nearly 250,000 Fewer Low-Income FAFSA Renewals This Cycle Nationally

    National College Attainment Network | 05/06/2020

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