Hurricane Isaias accomplished what even Covid-19 couldn’t do:  delayed the start of the new academic year for students at year-round schools in New Hanover County.  Traditional schools are still slated to begin August 17th. 

Back To School In NC: Keeping COVID-19 Out Of Classrooms

Aug 5, 2020
Brooke Bust-Webber / WUNC

Families across North Carolina are preparing to start a new school year in the midst of an ongoing pandemic. Most public school students are starting school online, but each school district around the state is doing things a little bit differently under guidelines released by Gov. Roy Cooper in July.

Hurricane Isaias blew through the Cape Fear region on Monday night, and many residents are still cleaning up the mess. But each community does things a bit differently. Local government offices are up and running, so cleanup is the top priority. Here’s how local municipalities are handling post-Isaias operations:

Rachel Keith / WHQR News

In-person teaching. Then, no in-person teaching. North Carolina public school teachers had to prepare for both possibilities since school let out in June. And it hasn’t been easy, as school districts across the state have flip-flopped between the two options. In Wilmington, WHQR checked in with some teachers about their fears of returning to the classroom during a pandemic.  

File Photo

Impacts from Tropical Storm Isaias remain in the Cape Fear Region, including the City of Wilmington. Natosha Tew is Wilmington's Emergency Management Coordinator. She spoke with WHQR about storm recovery efforts in the city. 



Wilmington woke up on Tuesday to downed trees and powerlines, and with more than half of the Cape Fear region without power.

  On Tuesday, Governor Roy Cooper held a press conference on the aftermath of Hurricane Isaias. The storm came ashore with 85 mile-per-hour winds and produced a storm surge of 3 to 5 feet, WHQR’s reports.   

Katelyn Freund

Tropical Storm Isaias officially left the eastern part of North Carolina in the early hours of Monday morning. In the storm’s wake -- hundreds of thousands without power and property damage from suspected tornadoes, fires, wind, and rain. As WHQR reports, Cape Fear counties are in the midst of their damage assessments.   

Katelyn Freund / WHQR Public Media

Tropical Storm Isaias has left the Cape Fear Region -- but damage remains. At least two people were killed and several more are missing after one of numerous tornadoes spawned by Isaias flattened a mobile home park in Windsor.

Ending Saturday, August 1st, this past week’s top stories include New Hanover County Schools abandoning a "hybrid" reopening of schools in favor of online only, a new curfew on alcohol sales in North Carolina, and reflecting on racial inequities in Wilmington. Take a listen below.

This week, Rhonda speaks to Tony Rivenbark, director of Thalian Hall, who will reflect on the legacy of the late Wilmington actress and broadcaster Kitty Fitzgibbon.

Hannah Breisinger

As calls for racial justice continue, the removal of confederate symbols continues to be a hot topic in Wilmington. But street name changes, in particular, probably won’t be happening anytime soon.

Sterling Publishing

Disney, Nickelodeon, and PBS have all run shows – some of them hit shows – created by Fracaswell Hyman.  He is a writer, producer, and director of children’s television.  He is also an actor who makes his home in Wilmington with his husband, their daughter, and a schnoodle. 


It’s official -- New Hanover County Schools will be “online-only” when they reopen next month. WHQR has the details.   


North Carolina’s Covid-19 trends are stabilizing.  It’s good news, according to state health officials – and it’s directly correlated with the statewide mask mandate.

WHQR has details on a new Executive Order effective Friday, July 31st.   

Hannah Breisinger

It’s been 122 years since a mob of white supremacists took to the streets of Wilmington, burning down Black-owned businesses and murdering dozens of Black citizens. The aftermath of that event still lingers -- in city street names, in racist language uttered by police officers, in voter suppression and racial health disparities. Now, a new movement of racial justice is forcing city leaders and citizens to confront Wilmington’s past -- and visualize a more equitable future.

WHQR will be gathering our weekly reporting and posting it every Saturday in a podcast--we're calling it THE WEEKLY. Catch up every weekend with host Katelyn Freund.  And let us know what you think by emailing

Ending Saturday, July 25th, this past week’s top stories included new research on water quality in Wilmington, a new directory from New Hanover County Library, and a report on the local oyster industry. Take a listen below.

  At a press conference on July 15th, Interim Superintendent Del Burns announced New Hanover County Schools would reopen with a hybrid plan combining in-class and remote learning. But as WHQR reports, Burns is now recommending a different option.     

This week, Rhonda speaks to Oskar Espina-Ruiz, Artistic Director of Chamber Music Wilmington. They speak about the future of CMW and its first ever Virtual Concert and Q&A next Thursday at 7:30 pm. Espina-Ruiz, clarinet, and Noriko Nagasawa, piano, will perform a program of Romantic works. WHQR's Music Director, Pat Marriott will will host the program, taking questions from the public in real time. 

Pat Marriott/WHQR

Daily Updates from WHQR on closures, openings, local, state and federal efforts and other developments in  the coronavirus battle.   

This week researchers from North Carolina State University released new findings in a study of PFAS contaminants in the blood samples taken from Wilmington volunteers. 

Domestic violence incidents spiked during the early part of the pandemic shutdown around the globe.  

Tyler Lockamy, Travis Souther /

  The New Hanover County Public Library is now providing an online directory of the City of Wilmington. And while the directory is new, the information in it goes back over 100 years. WHQR reports on what the information tells us  -- and how it could better inform the history of the 1898 coup d’état.

On Tuesday evening, City Council approved rezoning for a 78-unit apartment complex targeted for UNCW students on Racine Drive, and appropriated an additional $165,000 for municipal golf course clubhouse improvements. As for the public art installation in support of Black Lives Matter, that’s still an ongoing issue.


North Carolina set a record over the weekend for the highest number of new cases in a single day.  Health officials still describe the state’s coronavirus situation as a simmer, though, and not a boil.   

Vince Winkel

Aquaculture along the coast of North Carolina is a growing business.  The oyster industry in particular was looking at a banner season this spring before things came to a stop with the pandemic. 

Later this summer, WHQR will present a Virtual Q&A with an NPR star! There are so many incredible NPR hosts and staffers - people you hear every day or who shape NPR as a network. So help us decide and take the survey: Which NPR Star Would You Like to "Meet" at a Virtual Q&A? Click here to let us know your top picks.

The survey will remain open until the end of Thursday, July 30th.

Rhonda speaks to John Staton of StarNews, who helped to curate Curbside Cinema. Click here for Staton's review of Miss Juneteenth.


  Covid-19 continues to simmer in North Carolina, but has not yet boiled over.  Still, the numbers are not going down.


 Almost 4 out of 10 New Hanover County School teachers say they have personal issues that prevent them from working face-to-face with students. That’s according to a newly released survey by the school system. But as WHQR’s reports, New Hanover County has chosen to implement Governor Roy Cooper’s Plan B, which involves all staff returning in-person.