Delgado Community College closed for the city-wide hurricane evacuation on Saturday, August 27th after only one week of the fall semester with a record enrollment of 17,398 students. Sunday, August 28th, Hurricane Katrina moved ashore, pummeling the Gulf coast region. Hurricane Katrina’s winds or flooding from levee breeches that occurred Monday, August 29th affected the Greater New Orleans area, plus communities in Slidell, St. Tammany, St. Bernard, Arabi, and the entire Gulf coast region. Over 1,100 people died in the New Orleans area, and 222 storm-related deaths have been reported from the Gulf Coast region. New Orleans and surrounding communities were without power, phones, and all basic services and remained evacuated for over two months.
Populations from these areas, including Delgado’s students, faculty and staff, were scattered across the country, in exile until roads were made safe and accessible, available services were restored and the mandatory evacuation was lifted in mid-October. Several areas including New Orleans’ Lower 9th Ward and parts of Lakeview, Gentilly, St. Bernard, Arabi and New Orleans East, still remain uninhabitable at this time.
Delgado Community College also took a huge hit. Virtually all of the college’s locations suffered some storm-related damage in greater or lesser degrees. Delgado Northshore’s Slidell Learning Center was inundated with 8 feet of flood waters and was declared a total loss, while the Covington facility, which is also on the Northshore, emerged unscathed. The Maritime, Fire, Radar and Industrial Training Facility in New Orleans East appeared to be an island among the flooding in that area, as it was protected by the fortified levees of nearby neighbor Martin Marietta Michoud (NASA). The West Bank Campus in Algiers was a safe haven with only some roof damage to its main building, LaRocca Hall, while the Gretna One-Stop facility, also on the westbank, was ruined by rain and wind and remains closed at this time.
Delgado Charity School of Nursing, an eight-floor building located one block from the Superdome in downtown New Orleans’ medical district, had 4 to 5 feet of water in its basement, destroying materials in storage, and wreaking havoc on electrical systems and the elevator’s mechanicals. The City Park Campus, which usually serves approximately 11,000 students and is the college’s largest campus, had serious flooding with six to eight feet of water at the backside of the campus facing Lakeview. An estimated 60% of the facilities on City Park were damaged. The partially-built Center for Science and Mathematics High School, serving Orleans Parish public school students, collapsed during the storm, and most of the other 25 buildings, including Isaac Delgado Hall, had wind or flood damage. Much of the campus’ beautiful landscaping and trees were destroyed or left in distress.
Additionally, the college’s O’Keefe Administration Building on the outskirts of the City Park Campus suffered minor flooding that resulting in major mold growth while the offices sat without air conditioning for two months while the city was under forced evacuation. The O’Keefe “Admin building” housed the Chancellor’s Office, the Vice Chancellor of Student Learning and Development office, the Vice Chancellor of Administrative and Business Affairs office, Public Relations, the Office of Institutional Effectiveness, the Office of Institutional Research, The Development/Grants/Alumni Affairs/Legislative Affairs office, Human Resources, Payables/Receivables, Purchasing, Facilities and Planning, and others.
By September 5th Delgado’s Chancellor had secured and relocated the college’s top administrative functions to temporary headquarters at the Baton Rouge Community College (BRCC) Conference Center. In addition to immediate attention given to restoring facilities and college services, Chancellor Johnson set the challenge of keeping students engaged and pursuing their educational goals while also locating and reassembling faculty and staff scattered throughout the country.
With assistance from the Louisiana Community and Technical College System Office in Baton Rouge, a Call Center was established that enabled Delgado employees to have a life-line to the college. And, BRCC also provided server space for a temporary Delgado web site. The college’s email system was also restored shortly thereafter when Information Technology personnel rescued the necessary equipment from the devastated City Park Campus.
Charity School of Nursing and Allied Health seniors re-started their classes on October 10th at satellite locations and through unique arrangements with other higher education institutions throughout the country. Equally impressive was a huge initiative to transfer as many courses to online instruction as possible that enabled the college to hold a virtual fall semester with over 2,500 students. Faculty and staff engaged in this initiative had just a few short weeks and worked tirelessly to create and implement the special online fall semester which provided 5,281 course offerings.
Delgado also held some classroom instruction for the Nursing and Allied Health students at the Covington location and also on the West Bank Campus from October through December. And, the college conducted some automotive training at the West Jefferson Louisiana Technical College (LTC) campus, and GM Training at the LTC site in Hammond.
Training throughout the state on-site for business and industry clients was conducted with minimal interruption through the Workforce Development and Education unit. Florida Marine Transporters also donated office and classroom space in Mandeville to the Workforce Development and Education unit, allowing training for key maritime industry certifications to continue, while firefighting training was hosted by L.E. Fletcher Technical College in Houma.
A mini “intersession” was also held at the West Bank Campus in December. And, Delgado declared its return for spring semester in January 2006. The school also leased a 10,000 square foot building in Algiers near the West Bank Campus to provide more classroom space while tackling major repair projects in coming months.