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Charlotte Talks: Public Schools Are Closed For The Year. Now What?

Ann Doss Helms

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Gov. Roy Cooper announced North Carolina’s public schools will stay closed for the remainder of the year. Hundreds of thousands of students are impacted – what are the consequences?

Nearly 150,000 students in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, alone, are affected by this decision, and the repercussions range from online classes and grades to canceled prom and graduation.

Some of the most damaging effects of this may be the exacerbated inequality. While schools are closed, classes have moved online. Yet as many as 70,000 homes in Mecklenburg County lack internet access, and for many more, reliable internet, laptops and other technology is simply not affordable.

For families that do have the resources, other problems persist -- many teachers still have little-to-no experience teaching online and students have fewer guidelines than ever. As of now, there is no official end in sight for normal, in-person instruction.

This is also, in some ways, a unique opportunity to reimagine public education. Never before have so many aspects of traditional education been thrown into sharp relief. When students do ultimately return to the classrooms, what does this experience have to teach us? 

Questions abound: When can we go back to school? What will class look like when we do? How can we bring kids up to speed who simply did not have the resources to maintain their education online? Who's falling through the cracks with remote learning, and how do we keep them from falling irreparably behind?

We unpack this decision and all its implications with a panel of educators and experts.


James FordState Board of Education member, Southwest Region

Matt Hayes, Deputy Superintendent of Academics for Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools

Hilary Marshall, eighth-grade teacher and head of the language arts department at Alexander Graham Middle School

Ann Doss Helms, reporter for WFAE

Jesse Steinmetz is Assistant Producer of Charlotte Talks with Mike Collins. Before joining WFAE in 2019, he was an intern at WNPR in Hartford, Connecticut and hosted a show at Eastern Connecticut State University.