GREENSBORO — In a much-anticipated decision from the Guilford County Board of Education on Tuesday, students will learn from home for at least the first nine weeks of school.
Fears of returning to the classroom during the coronavirus pandemic have punctuated school board meetings across North Carolina and that’s been no different in Guilford County.
But while other school districts have already committed to reopening plans, parents and students had been anxiously awaiting what Guilford’s school board would decide.
That changed Tuesday.
Superintendent Sharon Contreras amended her previous recommendation, calling for at least nine weeks of remote learning rather than the five weeks she had suggested at a previous meeting.
The motion to approve it passed 6-3 — split along party lines — with Democrats supporting the plan and Republicans against it.
Those three Republicans — Pat Tillman, Anita Sharpe and Linda Welborn — instead supported a substitute motion calling for five weeks of remote learning to start the school year rather than nine.
Tillman pointed to the long time students had already been away from classrooms this spring — a result of Gov. Roy Cooper shutting down the state in order to contain the coronavirus outbreak.
“I don’t know that another four weeks is going to dramatically increase our decision-making,” Tillman said Tuesday.
Contreras said the extra time would better help the district plan and prepare for when students return to school.
She is hoping that Congress could, in that time, pass the HEROES Act, which could provide significant funding for districts to increase staffing, such as paying teachers to teach more periods and hire others to supervise students, who would be spread out over more classrooms to meet the social-distancing requirements mandated by the state.
Board members did not adopt a plan on Tuesday for what a return to in-person instruction would look like when and if that happens.
Instead, Contreras called for additional board deliberation and discussion on those plans at a work session on Sept. 8.
Previously, she had provided the school board with three possible options for reopening schools that had been a mix of classroom and virtual instruction.
At Tuesday’s meeting, however, she added a fourth proposal. This new option would have daily, in-person instruction for grade levels K-5; four days a week, four hours per day, of in-person instruction for middle school students; and four days a week, three hours per day, of in-person instruction for high school students.
School board member Darlene Garrett said she supported Contreras’ recommendation to delay the reopening of schools for nine weeks.
“It will give us more time to work out a better plan, which I am very hopeful will include high schools,” Garrett said.
Contreras is calling for school board members to consider setting health criteria for the reopening of schools. She said those could potentially include requirements such as a downward trajectory of documented cases or a ceiling on the percent of residents testing positive for COVID-19.
“It’s totally up to you what you use,” said Contreras, adding she thinks it’s unfair that school boards are having to make these decisions rather than public health officials.
GREENSBORO — On his last birthday, Anthony Dochtermann turned 25 and checked zip lining off his bucket list on July 26, 2013.
Just a few months later, Dochtermann was shot and killed outside of a Greensboro apartment. Nearly seven years later, his family is still desperate for answers, an arrest and, maybe, some closure.
On Dochtermann’s birthday Sunday, like every birthday since his death, his family zip lined to honor and celebrate his life.
His family’s life is intentionally cluttered with reminders of Dochtermann. There are photos of him and pictures he drew at every turn in the family’s home in Randleman and tattoos decorate his brother’s and sister’s arms. A nephew born shortly after his death bears the middle name “Anthony.”
“I try to sit here and be patient,” said Dawn Hughes, Dochtermann’s mother, “but seven years has gone by and I’m ready. I need to know.”
According to news releases from the Greensboro Police Department, Dochtermann was shot shortly before 3 a.m. on Nov. 2, 2013, He was visiting a friend at the Ashton Woods Apartments at 3927 Hahns Lane in Greensboro.
In a 911 recording, the caller tells the dispatcher, “He went outside and it sounds like he got shot. He walked outside, like he was leaving.”
Dochtermann was shot in the parking lot of the apartment complex and taken to a hospital where he was pronounced dead. An autopsy concluded that Dochtermann’s death was the result of a gunshot wound to the back.
The case remains open, but since 2013, Greensboro police have not released any new information from the investigation.
“I’ve tried to play it out so many times in my head,” Frankie Moon said.
Moon, Dochtermann’s brother, was with him earlier on the night that he died. The two, along with Dochtermann’s friend who lived at Ashton Woods, went out to a few bars in Greensboro that night.
“We went to two or three places,” Moon said.
It was a spur of the moment decision; Doctermann had realized it was N.C. A&T’s homecoming, a night that typically draws large crowds and parties to Greensboro.
“The last place was Stumble Stilskins,” Moon said of the bars they visited and where his wife, Danielle Moon, picked him up.
“When we left Anthony, he literally skipped back to the bar,” she said.
Neither of them noticed anything unusual about Dochtermann.
His family said they know he went to a gas station that night and exchanged numbers with a person he met there. They said they also know he received a call from that number and that his friend answered it when Dochtermann was outside of the apartment and was shot, but police have never released or confirmed that information.
“We assumed it was a robbery,” Danielle Moon said. “But his wallet was on the ground and his money was still in it.”
Maria Pendola, Dochtermann’s sister, received a phone call from Dochtermann’s friend, telling her that her brother had been shot. Pendola said she and Hughes rushed to the hospital.
“As soon as I walked in and there was a chaplain standing there with an officer, I knew,” Hughes said. She said she made a scene out of anger — anger that she struggled to contain as she sought answers from police over the next few days, then weeks, then years.
“In the beginning I was calling (the detective) on a daily basis,” Hughes said. “As time went on, it was weekly. There was nights I called her literally at 4 o’clock in the morning cursing her out, then have to call right back and leave her an apology message.”
Hughes said she feels as if she has had to pry what little information she does know about her son’s death from the police department.
“We know that they are trying, but have compassion,” Danielle Moon said. “I know that the least you could have done when you got this case is to drive 30 minutes and meet his mother.”
Greensboro police spokesman Ron Glenn said Detective Teri Vaughan is still actively investigating and pursuing leads on Dochtermann’s case.
“We don’t have a cold case unit,” Glenn said. “We continue to investigate all unsolved crimes.”
Just last year, Glenn said, arrests were made in two cases that were several years old, so the department remains confident that cases like Dochtermann’s remain solvable despite the time that has passed.
“I don’t even have this hatred for this person,” Hughes said. “I do believe that you just can’t kill someone and then walk the streets, though.”
Hughes said her son’s death came only a year after Dochtermann moved back to North Carolina after living in New York near his father, who has since died , beginning when he was 16.
“Long Island was becoming very bad,” Hughes said. “Things with his dad weren’t all they were cracked up to be. … I’d been asking Anthony for nearly 10 years to come back.”
Like her mother, Pendola said she had been waiting years for her “best friend” to move home, to finally get back to the rhythm of being “the epitome of brother and sister.”
Hughes told her son they were headed to Long Island for a baby shower and if he wanted, he could pack up and drive back with the family. The day before their visit, he told them he wanted to return with them.
Hughes picked up Dochtermann and Patches, his dog that Hughes said her son “failed to mention” was coming with him. Dochtermann’s family said he took Patches from someone who was abusing her and that Patches, who is now 8 years old, mourned her owner’s death.
“She cried real tears,” Hughes said, adding that having Patches as a reminder of Dochtermann has been a “real blessing.”
Hughes never imagined a night of her son barhopping with friends would end with him being killed. Nor did she imagine that seven years later she still would be begging for answers to the questions of who killed her son, and why?
She said she finds it frustrating that Dochtermann’s death came when he was finally growing up and settling into life after moving back from New York.
“Why now?” she asked. “The kid was finally becoming a man, becoming responsible.”
He had started a new job at Ace-Avant Concrete Construction and “found what he loved to do,” Danielle Moon said.
In late 2019, the state of North Carolina announced a reward of up to $5,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person who shot and killed Dochtermann. That’s in addition to an initial $2,000 reward.
The family hopes the money will encourage someone to come forward. In the meantime, they’ll keep asking questions and celebrating his life. After zip lining on each anniversary of his birth, they head to his gravesite at Liberty Road Baptist Church in Randleman.
“However old he is, I get that many balloons blown up,” Pendola said. “We all take some balloons and let them ago.”
On the anniversary of his death each year, a larger crowd of family and friends gathers at his grave and releases paper lanterns into the air. Everyone wears green, Dochtermann’s favorite color, and Pendola tries to make something special in remembrance of her brother each year, such as bracelets, lanyards or candles.
“I’ll probably do it every year,” she said. It’s a way to keep his memory at the forefront of their minds. She keeps her cellphone filled with pictures and videos of her brother, acting like the “jokester” his family refers to him as.
April Fools was one of his favorite days April Fool’s Day was a particular favorite of his, and Hughes tended to be the target of his antics — confetti in her car’s air-conditioning vents, pumpkin seeds on the ceiling fan, clear tape over the sink.
“We were always laughing,” Pendola said.
“I’ve got some really funny friends,” Frankie Moon said, “but even my really good friends — there’s no comparison.”
Moon said he often thinks about what would have happened if he stayed with his brother or if they hadn’t gone out at all that night. He said the passing of time only makes it harder for him.
Hughes smiles now when she reflects on the pranks her son played on her, but it has taken her years to get over the sleepless nights that followed Dochtermann’s death. She said that a couple of years ago her kids took her to see a psychic as a present. The psychic told Hughes that she would never know who killed her son because that person is also deceased.
“Since that day, it kind of gave me a little sense of peace, of calm.”
Still, she and her family want to see justice served for Dochtermann.
“He was my best friend,” Hughes said. “He was my first true love. … I need to know.”
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RALEIGH — Gov. Roy Cooper announced Tuesday that he’s prohibiting the late-night sales of alcohol at restaurants — a move to discourage gatherings of people and the potential spread of COVID-19.
Since early June, the number of state residents infected with the respiratory disease has been steadily rising.
In recent weeks, though, the increases have been sharper and continue to set records while state health officials struggle with containment.
Cooper’s decision came on the same day North Carolina reported another record number of hospitalizations involving coronavirus patients, which is now approaching 1,250.
Starting Friday, restaurants, distilleries and breweries will have to cut off sales at 11 p.m.
State law usually allows sales until 2 a.m. The order doesn’t apply to retailers like grocery or convenience stores that sell beer and wine on the shelves.
Some local governments — Raleigh and Chapel Hill among them — had already approved similar bans after seeing examples of restaurant patrons failing to wear masks or to remain apart late at night.
At a media briefing Tuesday, Cooper said the move is needed as case numbers have increased among young people — especially in light of college students returning to school next month.
“Slowing the spread of this virus requires targeted strategies that help lower the risk of transmission,” Cooper said. “We’ve seen case numbers increase among younger people, and prevention is critical to slowing the spread of the virus.”
States like South Carolina and Alabama also have moved up last call this month to attempt to stem the virus’ intensity.
Standalone bars have remained closed since March under Cooper’s executive orders and will continue to be through at least Aug. 7. Restaurants have been able to operate their own bars inside their location, however.
The move also doesn’t affect the government-run Alcoholic Beverage Control liquor stores, which already must close by 9 p.m.
As of Tuesday afternoon, more than 116,000 people in North Carolina have tested positive for COVID-19 since the pandemic began in March, according to the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services.
N.C. Secretary of Health Mandy Cohen said Tuesday that case trends appear to be stabilizing, but more time is needed to review the data. She added that while the trajectory of the percentage of tests returning positive is falling, it’s still too high.
Number of N.C. cases: 116,087 as of noon Tuesday, according to the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services. That’s a one-day increase of 1,749 new infections since Monday. There were 16,631 tests completed on Tuesday, with a total of 1.65 million tests completed since the pandemic began. Seven percent of tests returned Monday were positive, according to the latest data available.
In Guilford County: According to state health officials, Guilford County has recorded 4,862 cases and 139 related deaths as of Tuesday’s report. These numbers represent increases of 73 new cases and no new deaths since Monday.
N.C. deaths: 1,820 as of Tuesday, a one-day increase of 30 fatalities.
N.C. hospitalizations: With 96% of hospitals reporting, a record 1,244 people were hospitalized Monday for treatment of COVID-19, 67 more than Sunday’s initial count, according to the latest state data.
Across the U.S.: More than 4.28 million confirmed and probable cases as of Tuesday afternoon, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The number of cases nationally increased by 54,448 since Monday. The CDC reported total U.S. deaths of 147,672 as of Tuesday, a one-day increase of 1,126 new fatalities.