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Editor’s note: Walter Bumphus, president of the American Association of Community Colleges, served as president of the Louisiana Community and Technical College System when Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf area. Below are some lessons learned from his experience in developing a plan to address immediate concerns.
Communicate with students and their families. It is critical that students understand that the institution’s staff is working on solutions to address their immediate concerns so as not to delay attainment of their educational goals. For example, if nursing students are in their last semester and are in the middle of nursing clinicals, forge a partnership with a hospital that allows them to continue clinicals so that they may stay on track to complete their degree at the end of the semester.
Conduct a comprehensive assessment. This will help to determine the extent of impact that the storm has had on campus facilities. If the damage is such that college operations will be impacted for an extended period of time, the college must make two key contacts:
Convene a conference call of colleges within a region of the state. Via conference call or Skype discuss short-term solutions for handling key student services functions (i.e., financial aid, advising and counseling, business office services). Also develop a plan where campuses may be able to temporarily assign specific functions to a campus that has been minimally impacted to handle specific functions for all campuses in the region.
News and resources pertaining to post-Hurricane Sandy
Consider the implications for financial aid. If the college will be closed for an extended period of time, financial aid will become an issue, especially if a full disbursement has been made to the student. If the financial aid disbursement has already been made, and a student decides to re-enroll at another institution that has not been affected by the storm, institutions must make the decision about whether to honor a tuition waiver for the current semester for those students.
Conduct a thorough review of the college’s insurance policy. This is needed to determine how damages are classified and what facility damage is covered. Appoint a point-of-contact to work directly with FEMA on damage claims.
Determine a policy and methodology for how faculty and staff are to report. When and how often should personnel contact the institution or, if they perform critical functions, report to work? However, if reporting to work poses a hazard to the employee, the college needs to develop a plan for telecommuting, etc.
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