Despite the devastation on the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary campus, President Chuck Kelley said he plans for the main campus to be fully operational in August 2006 and is hopeful that some activities will be held on campus as early as January 2006.
Extension center classes will continue as scheduled.
"New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary is here to stay, and we are getting back to work," Kelley said during a September 1 meeting at the seminary's Atlanta-area North Georgia Campus. "We will have a semester. We will have a December graduation."
Kelley said the August 2006 date is contingent on a number of factors. Trustees must approve the target date during their fall meeting. The date also is contingent on the recovery efforts throughout the city; the surrounding infrastructure must be ready in order for the seminary to meet the target date, he said.
The good news from New Orleans is that all the members of the seminary family who weathered the storm are now out of the city. According to Chris Friedmann, associate vice president for operation who stayed on campus during the storm, the seminary property avoided major structural damage in the hurricane. High winds leveled trees on the front of campus and tore shingles, but the buildings escaped structural damage.
However, after the levees broke, most of the campus was flooded.
Mike Moskau, the seminary's building contractor, said repair work could begin as soon as waters recede. The repairs will be labor-intensive; apartments, houses, and classrooms affected by floodwaters will be gutted, sanitized, and repaired. Moskau said he believes that an August 2006 launch date is achievable.
"Together as a seminary family and with Southern Baptists we can do this in a way that as much as possible minimizes disruption for student and faculty families," Kelley said. "God has given us the opportunity to see the true measure of His greatness in helping us overcome the most difficult situation the seminary has ever faced."
Kelley said the city of New Orleans needs the seminary more than ever and hopes it can play a role in helping the people of New Orleans heal and recover.
With the target date in sight and a bit of good news about campus buildings, the group of thirty administrators, professors, and staff members at the September 1 meeting worked on ways to continue the semester. Kelley said continuing the semester is very important to keep students on track for graduation.
An educational task force was formed to develop solutions. After hours of discussion, the team developed a plan to provide students with flexible educational options while the campus goes through cleanup and repair. The main option is for students to continue classes which will be reformatted. Other options include Internet courses, October workshops, and open transfer to extension sites. The options will be available on the certificate, undergraduate, and graduate levels.
"All of us on campus have experienced a tremendous loss, however, our students don't have to lose this semester," Provost Steve Lemke said. "We are designing options so that every student can complete their scheduled load through this semester."
The most extensive option will be a ten-week term of reformatted courses utilizing "threaded" Internet discussions. The goal is to provide every course that was offered on campus in the fall.
Some classes offered multiple times on the main campus may be unified into one section per course. Due to the style of instruction, students can study from anywhere in the country. Students who were enrolled in a course on the main campus can join the same courses in the independent study format without additional costs.
Students who were enrolled in the seminary's Internet courses also are able to continue their courses. Additional course offerings may be offered, and students who were displaced by the hurricane can add Internet courses without paying the usual technology fees.
During the week of October 17, workshop courses will be moved to the North Georgia campus. A few video extension sites in Florida also may be utilized. The developing plan calls for expanding the current workshop week to give students additional options.
New Orleans Seminary offices in North Georgia may be reached at 1-800-662-8701. Donations can be made online at www.nobts.edu; or by mail at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, P.O. Box 1608, Decatur, GA 30031; or New Orleans Seminary Hurricane Relief Fund, Southern Baptist Foundation, 901 Commerce St., Suite 600, Nashville, TN 37203.