UNC-W clearing hurricane damage so students can get back to class

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— More than 16,000 University of North Carolina at Wilmington students have been in limbo since Hurricane Florence hit their campus 10 days ago.

The campus remains closed, although administrators said Monday that faculty and staff can return Wednesday and students will be welcomed back Saturday. There’s still no officials word on when classes will resume, although it could be as early as Oct. 1.

Florence knocked down dozens of trees and scattered debris across the campus, left water in some buildings and caused significant damage to Dobo Hall, which houses biology and chemistry labs and classrooms.

“You’re looking at approximately 200 trees that came down. You see windblown debris that’s evident across campus,” said Miles Lackey, UNC-W vice chancellor for business affairs. “We’re getting a lot of that cleaned up and are really making a lot of progress.”

All 138 buildings on campus were inspected in recent days for damage, Chancellor Jose Sartarelli said. The priorities have been “safety of the buildings, restoring power, getting IT going and making sure, with so much machinery on campus, that everyone is OK,” he said.

Work crews are still drying out many buildings where water came in, such as the Galloway Hall dormitory.

“There’s some water in there, and we’re working with contractors on a daily basis trying to get it ready,” said Pat Leonard, vice chancellor for student affairs.

Dobo Hall, home to about 100 science classes, had the most damage.

“We’ve already made plans to relocate most of the classes,” said Aswani Volety, professor of biology and marine biology.

The big question many students and their families still have is will students get enough credit in their classes when they return to finish the semester on track.

“We have a number of strategies, and we feel like we’ll be in good shape and the students will be able to finish the semester,” Marilyn Sheerer, provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs, said, noting canceling fall break and a day off before exams will gain UNC-W a few days.

“We’re going to deliver what we have to deliver,” Sartarelli said.