Classes are canceled at every college and university in South Florida, and most have given a clear message to students living on campus: get out.
Schools are encouraging students in dorms to stay with friends in protected homes, or better yet, leave South Florida altogether. But what about the students that don’t have a place to stay?
Students at the University of Miami had the earliest heads up, as their university canceled classes for the rest of the week early Tuesday.
“We were ahead of the curve a a little bit,” said Patricia Whitely, UM’s vice president for student affairs.
She said the university is currently waiting on directions from the county on whether to shelter-in-place or evacuate the remaining 150 students on campus to a shelter.
“At least it’s better than Hurricane Andrew. We had 5,000 students on campus,” she said. “It hit during orientation weekend.”
At Florida International University, those that can’t head home are sheltered in the common areas and hallways of Park View Hall, the newest housing unit on campus built specifically for use as a shelter. The fortified central area of the dorm has generators for power and air conditioning.
“A lot of what it’s about is keeping people together so they can have a community to hang out with,” said FIU Director of Housing Joe Paulick. “It gets boring.”
At least 24 students from the Biscayne Bay campus, which is in an evacuation zone, are headed to shelter on the main campus. Most of those that remain are out-of-area or international students who’ve never experienced a hurricane. About 100 staffers will stay on campus as well to feed students and keep basic operations running.
At private schools Barry, St. Thomas and Johnson & Wales University, students will be bussed to a Miami-Dade County evacuation shelter instead of staying on campus.
“I think what schools learned during Katrina is that shelter-in-place during a hurricane really isn’t best practice,” said Scott Smith, Barry’s vice president of student affairs.
He said the nearly 30 students headed to the shelter will be given food from the dining hall and told about what they should bring with them. Staff also spent the previous week reaching out to the substantial number of international students on campus and letting them know what to expect.
In the dorms, residential advisers collected contact information and storm plans from students.
“I think of all the things we’re worried about is when all of this settles, where is everybody?” Smith said. “We wanted a way to check that our students are safe.”