Hannah McLeod

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At a July 30 special called meeting, Dr. Trevor Putnam presented the Haywood County School Board with a contract in conjunction with Green County Schools and the North Carolina Rural Center to provide 243 hotspots for students and staff without internet access. The service will be provided free for 12 months. 

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The start of this school year has been a topic fraught with debate about student needs, logistical hurdles and funding shortfalls. But, the voices and opinions of teachers seem to have been left out of the conversation when communities and schools need them most. 

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Innocent people murdered in their own homes, police departments equipped with military-grade weapons, students with school resource officers but not a counselor to be found, district attorneys unwilling or unable to prosecute police who have broken the law — these stories heard across the nation have birthed the movement to “Defund the Police.”

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When Asheville Fireman Mark Jameson returned to the fire station after responding to a particularly difficult call, the only thing that lifted his spirits was seeing Denali wagging her tail with excitement upon his return. 

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Local governments and residents of Western North Carolina have been working for years to improve and construct greenways. Now, there is a plan to connect local trails, greenways, multi-use paths and other bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure into one long trail — the 150-mile Hellbender Trail. 

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This week the debate has raged over whether — and how — to reopen schools next month. President Donald Trump has demanded that schools reopen, and yet some of the largest districts in the country, including Los Angeles and San Diego, have announced they will remain fully remote this fall, following a surge of cases and a reversal of reopening efforts in California. 

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The Coronavirus Pandemic and ensuing shutdown means folks have been spending most of their time at home for the last several months. With travel and leisure opportunities diminished, it may be fair to assume the tourist industry in our region will struggle this summer. But with warmer weather, locals and tourists alike are turning to the outdoors to fill their time and stretch their legs after quarantine. For outdoor recreation and rafting companies in Western North Carolina, this urge to get outside is keeping them afloat. 

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When tourists visit this region, many of them come seeking the beauty and awe of the waterfalls that decorate the slopes of these mountains. One of those natural beauties is a long, cascading waterfall located off of Old Still Road in Maggie Valley. 

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Following a June 23 public hearing, Jackson County Commissioners voted to pass the proposed 2020-21 budget without any of the cuts suggested by Commissioner Ron Mau. 

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As schools shut down during the pandemic, students were sent home and instructed to tune in online. Chromebooks were loaned out, and teachers began the process of getting material for the rest of the school year online. But for many students, there was still the problem of reliable internet. 

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Seven counties in Western North Carolina have the opportunity to band together and receive money for affordable housing through the Southwestern Commission. As of June 15, several counties have signed on to make up the Southwestern NC HOME Consortium. 

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The proposal to temporarily turn Main Street in downtown Waynesville into a one-way street has been shelved for now. 

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Over the past week the Jackson County Board of Commissioners has been discussing whether to pass the 2020-21 fiscal year budget and tax rate as recommended by County Manager Don Adams or make changes some commissioners see as imperative. 

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As small businesses begin to reopen following the Coronavirus Pandemic, some cities and towns are finding creative ways to help their businesses recover from the shutdown. 

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At a special called meeting on Monday, June 1, the Haywood County School Board discussed the legality and viability of providing the class of 2020 with traditional graduation ceremonies. Official graduation ceremonies for Tuscola, Pisgah, Haywood Early College and Haywood Community Learning Center all took place over the past week in drive-thru ceremonies.

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Justin Mitchell grew up like many young men in the South. He had a big family and attended church. His partner described him as southernly polite and chivalrous. Yet, he was anything but ordinary. He had been an EMS paramedic since 2007, he held a bachelor’s degree in occupational health and safety and served as a privately contracted flight medic in Iraq. Everything changed for Justin on March 31 when he was told he had previously transported Haywood County’s first positive COVID-19 patient. 

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As the Coronavirus Pandemic developed and schools shut down, senior year began to look drastically different for high school seniors across the country. At the Haywood Community Learning Center, graduating seniors like 18-year-old Jadynn Schmidt were uniquely well equipped to handle the coming change. 

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For Chloé Queen, a senior at Pisgah High School, graduation and senior year are turning out drastically different than anticipated. 

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Maggie Valley is projecting a more than 16 percent decline in revenue for the 2020-21 fiscal year due to the shutdown caused by the COVID 19 crisis.

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In an executive order on March 20, Karen Brinson Bell, executive director of the North Carolina Board of Elections moved the second Republican primary for North Carolina’s 11th Congressional District to June 23. 

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Addiction is a disease of isolation. This is a common truth in the culture of recovery. So it is understandable that social distancing and isolation runs counter to most efforts of participating in a recovery community. 

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Like much of the economy in Western North Carolina, art galleries in the region depend on tourism for survival. Just ask co-owner/manager of Twigs and Leaves, located in downtown Waynesville, Carrie Keith. 

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As executive orders began piling up throughout March to close schools, restaurants, hotels and all other non-essential businesses, childcare facilities remained open. The essential nature of the business meant that even though it is a place where adults and children gather together in close quarters, it would have to adapt to continue its services.

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With the current stay at home order in place at least through May 8, the Maggie Valley Town Board of Aldermen is discussing putting a plan in place to begin reopening town businesses.

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Haywood County Board of Elections recently voted on a plan addressing COVID-19 concerns to present to the North Carolina State Board of Elections for approval.

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Mountain Awards and Apparel teamed up last week with local businesses to support the small business community in Haywood County through the #SUPPORTHAYWOOD T-shirt campaign. 

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Hannah McLeod, a new writer for The Smoky Mountain News, shares her advice for staying calm and connected during the COVID-19 Pandemic. 

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“The immune system is complex and different for every person. Each person’s immune system is unique to them because it is based on the genes one inherits.”

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The Coronavirus Pandemic has forced many nonprofit organizations to find new, innovative ways to meet their mission while not being able to hold traditional fundraising methods or connect directly with their clients.

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HIGHTS is an organization serving vulnerable youth in Jackson, Haywood, and Macon counties. Since 2007, the organization has sponsored educational opportunities, recreational activities, job skills training and community service projects for public schools, mental health agencies, church youth groups and many other community organizations.

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The Coronavirus Pandemic has caused normal daily lives to grind to a halt. All non-essential industry workers must remain at home most of the day. Restaurants, stores, and face-to-face contact are no longer an option. However, REACH of Haywood County is not undergoing that common change.

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Amid the spread of the Coronavirus Pandemic, Folkmoot USA decided this week to cancel its signature international festival. 

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During a emergency virtual meeting of the Haywood County Board of Education Wednesday night, the board voted on a change to the school calendar regarding spring break, and granted emergency powers to Superintendent Dr. Bill Nolte.

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All North Carolina public schools will be shut down through May 15 after Gov. Roy Cooper signed another executive order Monday.

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Annalise Steele, a college student at Appalachian State and a resident of Waynesville, has had a unique experience in the wake of the spread of the coronavirus. 

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It’s not at every summer camp that kids get to meet and interact with folks from countries all around the world, but at Camp Folkmoot in Waynesville, kids will get to do just that.

The Maggie Valley Board of Aldermen recently directed the North Carolina Department of Transportation to move forward with a plan to improve safety along Soco Road from the intersection of U.S. 276 to Fie Top Road. 

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The assassination of Iranian Major General Qasem Suleimani is the latest in a string of incoherent, dangerous foreign policy decisions by the United States. Not only will his death escalate tensions with Iran, already heightened since the U.S. pulled out of the Iran nuclear deal, it will help consolidate power and support behind the hard-liners within the Iranian government. Killing Suleimani will not curb future attacks against Americans, it will not reduce the chance of future deaths of Americans, it will create more. Already Iran has vowed to retaliate against the United States and U.S. forces abroad, they announced that they will be restarting their nuclear program with no restrictions on uranium enrichment, and the Iraqi parliament voted to expel all U.S. troops from Iraq. 

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The past few weeks have demonstrated the dark direction the United States is taking in foreign policy. Our country declared Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank legal, and the Senate blocked a resolution by the House to recognize the Armenian mass killings that took place during WWI as genocide. Politics, domestic and foreign, are guiding our foreign policy far more than the information, history, and morality that should. 

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As fall draws to a close, and the leaves turn brown to pile up on the sidewalk instead of in the trees, the cycles existing all around us become more obvious, more visible. 

My personal stressors in life are those everyone young person faces: finding employment, making enough money, trying to figure out what I will do with my life. A few nights ago, I had a dream about my grandmother, my father’s mother. She was young again in my dream (and alive) and had long, beautiful, curling blonde hair. The rest of the dream is a blur, but I remember being in awe of her beauty. As I woke up, I relished the opportunity to have been with her for a few moments. 

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The small room of the Democratic headquarters for Haywood County was packed Oct. 31 for a speech by the Chief Justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court Cheri Beasley. 

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