Carteret County resident Christine Hanks never cared much for politics. She had never contacted a school board member, her legislator, or the governor on any issue.

But that changed in March 2020, when Gov. Roy Cooper issued an executive order shuttering public schools across the state due to the rising COVID-19 pandemic. A two-week break from in-person classroom instruction — a purported effort to flatten the curve — soon turned into months of all-virtual instruction for her 15-year-old son, Luke, at Croatan High School in Newport.

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