NEW ORLEANS (BP) — New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary closed the main campus and the Baton Rouge extension center Tuesday, Aug. 28, through Thursday, Aug. 30, in advance of Hurricane Isaac. Students who are able to leave were encouraged to do so, but the seminary stopped short of calling for a mandatory campus evacuation.
Tentative plans call for the campus to reopen and all classes to resume Friday, Aug. 31. NOBTS will announce updates to the plan by noon Thursday, Aug. 30.
With the storm expected to strengthen and make landfall within hours of the seventh anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, naturally some students were nervous about Isaac. NOBTS President Chuck Kelley tried to ease those fears.
“What we know in New Orleans is that tropical weather is a simple fact of life. It is part of the rhythm of life on the Gulf Coast,” Kelley said. “What you do is approach the storm with prayer and faith.
“We know that God is always in charge. If we had any doubt, Katrina showed us that the worst scenario you can possibly imagine, He handled,” Kelley said. “Knowing that God can handle something as awful and difficult as Katrina tells us He can handle anything.”
The seminary’s emergency management team began monitoring Isaac early last week, before forecast models began moving westward toward New Orleans. The full team met on Friday, Aug. 24, to discuss the potential impact of the storm and to address any last-minute adjustments to the seminary’s hurricane plan. During the day Saturday, Aug. 25, Kelley made the decision to cancel Monday classes at the seminary’s South Florida extension center in Miami. He kept a close watch on the storm throughout the day Saturday and Sunday as the projected path began to inch westward toward New Orleans. Kelley announced his decision about the closure via www.nobts.edu, e-mail, Facebook, Twitter and the seminary’s emergency text messaging service.
“Whenever tropical weather is in the Gulf, we immediately start following whether it’s to New Orleans or not,” Kelley said.
When making decisions about closures, Kelley said the safety of the NOBTS family is of utmost priority. The seminary also evaluates what the city of New Orleans is planning and the closure decisions of other New Orleans-based colleges and universities. After evaluating all the information, Kelley decided to remain open Monday, Aug. 27, and then close the next three days. Kelley remains hopeful the school will resume full operation Friday.
Members of the student services group at NOBTS spent most of the day Monday fielding questions from students, disseminating information and assisting them with evacuation plans and shelter-in-place plans. Craig Garrett, NOBTS dean of students, said evacuations are a difficult burden for students, both emotionally and financially. Even short evacuations can become quite costly.
“Some of our students are choosing to stay at shelter locations that have been made available to us through the generosity of churches and state conventions and others, so that’s been a real blessing,” Garrett said.
“This sort of situation can be especially difficult for students with disabilities or sometimes for our international students who may not have family close by, so we are making special provisions to try and meet those needs in any way we can,” Garrett said. “I would just ask for specific prayer for our students, and for any assistance they may feel led to provide.”
Gary D. Myers is director of public relations at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. Updates from campus will be available at www.nobts.edu.