Delgado forced to turn away students; Impasse with FEMA over repairs leaves campus short on space
For the first time in Delgado Community College's
The needed rooms are there, but they are in buildings that are still awaiting repairs from the damage that Hurricane Katrina's floodwaters inflicted four years ago.
Educators are furious that they had to reject students this fall, as many are seeking new training because of upheaval in the economy. In Louisiana and elsewhere, community colleges traditionally have an
"This is my 39th year in community colleges, and I never turned away a student" before this semester, said Delgado Chancellor Ron Wright, 62. "Never."
The reason is one that has become common in
One factor in the disparity is the cost of replacing equipment. While FEMA's appraisals set prices at the levels seen decades ago, when the equipment was bought, "I've got to put them back at 2009 prices," Wright said. "The money will not cover what we need to do."
However, FEMA spokesman Manuel Broussard said, the agency has
To break the impasse, Louisiana Recovery Authority Director Paul Rainwater wants to work with Wright and the Governor's Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness to develop a plan for Delgado that they can present to FEMA, authority spokeswoman Christina Stephens said.
"If we go to FEMA and say Delgado is still having these issues and can make a case, I think they'll go with that," she said.
But no date for the strategy session has been set. "We have a lot of work to be done," Stephens said.
Meanwhile, Delgado is continuing its steady
One driving force in the surge is the sour economy, which has sent thousands of people around the country into t
President Barack Obama stressed the importance of these schools in July, when he announced an initiative to strengthen them "so they get the resources students and schools need and the results workers and businesses demand."
When Delgado 's registration opened late last month, students "just kept coming and coming and coming," Wright said.
That situation should have been "a dream," he said, but the flood of students created a space problem because eight of the 21 buildings on the City Park campus are unusable, Jahncke said.
Moreover, she said, three of those structures haven't been touched since the floodwaters receded.
"We kept saying, 'Oh, my God, where are we going to find another classroom? Where are we going to find another chair?' " Wright said.
About 40 percent of the square footage of the City Park campus' buildings is out of commission, he said. "That's basically where it was when the storm ended. Everything (in those buildings) that was destroyed during the flood is still destroyed and not replaced."
Wright, who became chancellor in July 2008, said he thinks Delgado is being ignored as recovery officials pay attention to institutions such as the University of New Orleans and Southern University at New Orleans.
"We've been left on the side of the road," he said. "And the economy can't go forward the way it needs to without the people that we are preparing."
The situation is "very frustrating," Stephens of the Louisiana Recovery Authority said.
"We're well aware that this is unacceptable."
Copyright 2009, The Times-Picayune
From: John Pope, "Delgado forced to turn away students; Impasse with FEMA over repairs leaves campus short on space," The Times-Picayune, New Orleans, September 5, 2009,