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A week before Hurricane Harvey made landfall in Texas, Prairie View A&M University Interim President Ruth J. Simmons welcomed an extraordinary new class.

The college announced August that it was poised to welcome 9,036 students, making it the largest freshman class in the university’s 140-year history. It was a record enrollment for the second year in a row.

“Our enrollment management team developed education partnerships with independent school districts throughout Houston and Dallas,” said Dr. Nave, provost and senior vice president for academic affairs.

“High achieving seniors at our partner schools were given automatic admission and scholarships and students who met our admissions standards were given special admissions,” she said. “We targeted those students, made them offers that were difficult to refuse and turned PVAMU to one of the top choices for them to pursue their higher education goals.”

But a few days after Prairie View A&M opened for the fall semester, Hurricane Harvey made landfall. In a special message, interim President Simmons spoke of the displacement suffered because of the strong winds, heavy rains, and flooding in the greater Houston area.

“Many faculty, staff, and students, along with their families,  suffered property damage and displacement, making it difficult to have the critical number of faculty and staff necessary to conduct routine business functions and classes on the Prairie View campus,” President Simmons said in her statement.

“As we assess the damage to campus and receive more detailed reports from faculty, staff and students about the challenges they will face in the wake of the storm, we will offer suggestions as to how others can be of assistance in the challenging period to follow,” the statement said.

Small grants of up to $500 have been made available to faculty, staff, and students with emergency needs resulting from the storm.

Although the campus reopens and classes begin on Tuesday, Sept. 5, students who are not able to return because of safety and recovery concerns, have been asked to access their course syllabi and materials through e-courses.

Prairie View’s Information Technology department supports a campus that never closes. The department provides educational computing services and other instructional technologies that stay online.

Across Houston, the first day of school for Houston Independent School District students will be Monday, Sept. 11.

“We are eager to get our students back into the classroom and learning,” said Superintendent Richard Carranza. “But we also need to be sure that our campuses are safe and that Houston’s infrastructure and roads are ready to handle transporting our students safely to school. Our team is currently assessing any damages to more than 280 schools from Hurricane Harvey, and I want to thank them for their efforts.”

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