LAKE CHARLES, La. (KPLC) - McNeese State University was already dealing with a pandemic, and now, they have damages from Hurricane Laura to deal with. In light of it all, the university says they’re continuing to move forward.
"This event is two to three times more than what we experienced with Rita in 2005,” says Tony Osburn, Vice President of Enrollment Management at McNeese
The McNeese campus sustained a lot of damage in several locations from Laura.
"Preliminary estimates are minimum $70 to 75 million in damage, maybe more. To put that into context, we had about $30 million in damages in Hurricane Rita.”
University staff didn’t waste any time announcing plans for the upcoming semesters.
"Immediately after Hurricane Laura, the university announced that we would go to fully online instruction for the remainder of the semester. Our expectation is sometime in the spring of 2021 we will be fully restored and fully operational.”
For students who are struggling with technology or internet access after the storm, McNeese has come up with some solutions.
“We know that internet access is a big challenge and a big need. Those two areas, first floor level of the parking garage and the seed center parking lot, are fired up and delivering wifi access right now,” Osburn said. "Students that have significant challenges with technology, maybe they lost their laptop or their computer, we have some limited space on campus at the seed center.”
They also have a partnership with the University of Louisiana in Lafayette to house on-campus residents.
“UL has made an agreement with McNeese that allows our students who continue to be enrolled at McNeese and continue to study online at McNeese to live on the UL campus," Osburn said. "MId-January for start of the spring term; that’s when we anticipate being able to have residents halls opening back up. All of our sister institutions have made their libraries, computer labs, and other campus resources available.”
Osburn says communication is key.
"When we start back up on Friday, if you are still in a bind when it comes to technology or internet access and you need some help, don’t just give up. Send an email to your faculty member and your courses. Let them know where you’re at, what’s going on, and they’re going to work with you.”
They’re even looking forward to graduation.
"We have about 650 that are scheduled to graduate this December. We are committed to helping them finish those degrees.”
Osburn says this is a crucial time for McNeese.
"This is the time where we flex and we adapt and we make it work.”
The fall semester for McNeese starts this Friday.