Some UNCW students return; 400 still displaced as classes begin after hurricane

Now, the university has set up cots in Hanover Gym for students who were not offered a hotel...
Now, the university has set up cots in Hanover Gym for students who were not offered a hotel room and do not have anyone to stay with.
Updated: Oct. 8, 2018 at 11:21 AM EDT
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WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - University of North Carolina Wilmington students returned to class Monday after weeks off from Hurricane Florence, but 400 students living in the University Apartments on campus are still not able to return to their residence hall.

University officials sent a message to students living in the apartments Monday saying they’re hopeful students will be able to return by the end of the week.

This update just went to University Apartments students. We are continuing to work on the buildings and will bring you...

Posted by UNCW on Monday, October 8, 2018

University Apartments residents who have not yet returned to Wilmington are advised not to come back until the apartments are move-in ready. Residents were also advised to stay with friends if possible.

Students who do not have friends to stay with and have returned to Wilmington are asked to visit the Hanover Gym for assistance. The gym is filled with cots for students needing a place to stay.

According to school officials, only one student has stayed in the gym.

Students who have secured hotel rooms are told to hold onto receipts. Details on reimbursements are to be released in the coming days.

Kyle Walsh is a freshman who lives in University Apartments and has been staying with a friend across campus since he was displaced. He said he is stressed and frustrated, but understands you can’t always plan for what Mother Nature will do.

“It was definitely stressful with all of that going on and with all of the intensity of more homework and longer class times and trying to make sure I get everything caught up," Walsh said. "It added a lot of stress, but I do understand that some things they didn’t think about or there were mistakes and everyone makes them, but I do think that it was kind of an inconvenience when it happened,” he said.

University officials are offering more counseling services for students and faculty to deal with the aftermath of the storm.

According to Provost for Academic Affairs Richard Ogle, the academic burden on top of students being displaced takes a toll on everyone’s mental health.

“No matter how we kind of carve up the student demographic, it is a huge burden and very intense for them to come back and to think, ‘how am I going to manage course work and how am I going to manage my living situation,’” Ogle said.

Ogle said school officials have asked professors to be accommodating and flexible with students as far as testing because they will have to squeeze a lot in the next few weeks.

According to Ogle, students missed about four weeks of classes and technically have to make that instructional time up in the eight weeks left of the semester. The UNCW Board of Governors, however, waived about a week of that time to try to cut down on what Ogle calls a “significant burden” for students and professors.

That’s reassuring for freshman Scott Chomicki who was displaced from Belk Hall, but was then able to move back in.

“When we went back home for a month, it felt like a whole new summer break and we had completely forgotten about what life was like on campus. We were acclimated and then we left and now we have to re-acclimate and understand how to do school and work again,” Chomicki said.

In a walk-through of residence halls on UNCW’s campus Friday night to confirm they are ready for students to return, university officials determined they were not comfortable in letting students back into Belk Hall and the University Apartments.

A day later, an email was sent to those residents, stating after a reassessment of conditions, Belk Hall residents would be able to return beginning at 5 p.m. Sunday night.

“Yesterday and overnight, we continued to work on various elements that forced us to delay yesterday morning’s reopening. All mechanical spaces were thoroughly re-cleaned. Hundreds of HVAC filters were changed in all residential spaces and will continue to be changed frequently for the foreseeable future. On the side of caution, we operated more than a dozen air scrubbers in Belk through the night. Scrubbers are still running in the apartments," the email stated.

The email went on to say University Apartments residents will not yet be allowed to return as the University Apartments buildings are not up to satisfactory conditions.

WAVE Transit Shuttle Service for students temporarily housed in Fairfield Inn & Suites and Golden Sands will begin Monday, Oct. 8.

Chomicki said he and his friends are worried about possibly losing the entire semester depending on Michael’s potential impacts.

Fairfield Inn

  • First pick-up from lobby area begins at 7 a.m. for transport to UNCW/Burney Circle.
  • This bus will run on a 20-minute loop until 9 p.m. Last pick-up will be at Burney Circle at 8:40 p.m.

Golden Sands

  • First pick-up from lobby area begins at 7 a.m. for transport to UNCW/Burney Circle.
  • This bus will run on a one-hour loop until 9 p.m. Last pick-up will be at Burney Circle at 8 p.m.

Displaced students were told they would be contacted by their instructors regarding classwork during their displacement.

“We are very sorry for the events of the past 24 hours. We realize the inconvenience, distress, and anxiety it caused both you and your parents when you were not able to move back in as planned. It was a very difficult decision for us to make, and the timing of it was not ideal by any means. As many of you know if your families' homes sustained damage during the hurricane, post-storm conditions change not just day to day, but sometimes even hour to hour. We knew the extent of damage to your building was significant, but we did everything we could to keep up with it. As of yesterday morning, we realized the damage had overwhelmed even our massive efforts. There is no excuse for the terrible inconvenience this has caused you, but we appreciate the understanding and patience so many of you have afforded us since yesterday morning. Please know that we will provide an update as soon as possible. We do not expect this displacement to last more than a few days, though we know any time at all has been a tremendous burden to bear.if you have any questions whatsoever, you can either call the housing office at 910 962-3241, or email (If you are already on campus, you will receive assistance more quickly by visiting Hanover Gym.) Thank you again, Seahawks. We promise there are better and brighter days ahead,” the email concluded.

As for students' thoughts on Hurricane Michael’s potential impacts, Walsh said there will always be setbacks, but for now he is going to focus on getting back to normal.

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