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OWC Trustees Approve Hurricane Recovery & Planning Measures


The District Board of Trustees of Okaloosa-Walton College has approved a change to the college's fall term class schedule and a plan to quickly repair roof damage at college facilities - measures related to Hurricane Ivan's effect on northern Florida. The OWC trustees met in regular session September 21 at the college's Robert L.F. Sikes Center in Crestview.

In order to provide adequate instructional time for students enrolled in the college's two fall "Fast-Track" terms, OWC trustees approved shifting the starting and ending dates of the terms. Fall Term 2, an eight-week term that began August 23, will now end on October 20. Fall Term 3, another eight-week term, will begin October 21 rather than on October 14 and will end on December 17. The college's 16-week Fall term will also extend class days into the normal final exam period. The changes do not effect the college's holiday break schedule.

The college sustained heavy damage to numerous building roofs due to Hurricane Ivan, most notably The Arts Center on the Niceville campus where approximately one-third of the roof over the stage of the main theater was destroyed. The roof of the gym also sustained substantial damage. To facilitate quick repair of the damage, trustees approved a plan to allow a building firm already under contract with the college to oversee the roof repairs. A.E. New, Jr., Inc. of Pensacola and their roofing subcontractor, All-South of Daphne, Alabama, have a current contract with the college to construct a new Science Building on the Niceville campus.

"Being able to move quickly on needed roof repairs will prevent further damage to college buildings and will allow the performing season at The Arts Center to proceed as scheduled," said Dr. Bob Richburg, college president, noting that the contractors will be able to begin immediately and the plan will not impact the construction schedule of the Science building.

The OWC Trustees also approved an agreement with the Walton County Commissioners and the American Red Cross for the college's Walton County Chautauqua Center to serve as an official Emergency Risk Shelter. The center served as community refuge during Hurricane Ivan and sheltered approximately 70 individuals. The agreement calls for Walton County Commissioners to provide the necessary permanent shutters for one of two buildings at the OWC center in DeFuniak Springs in order for it to be officially designated as a shelter.

Trustees also approved a Disaster Recovery Plan agreement for reciprocal use of Information Technology facilities with Tallahassee Community College in case of an emergency equipment failure or catastrophic event. Prior to Hurricane Ivan, college senior vice president Jeff Schembera personally drove taped back-up of all college computer functions to Tallahassee. Schembera noted that the agreement formalizes the use by either school of the other's computer resources in order to continue operations in the event of an emergency.

Trustees also heard a report from OWC Director of Nursing, Linda Whitenton, on the 91 percent passing rate of OWC's nursing graduates on the national licensure exam for Registered Nurses. In an impressive showing, OWC's nursing class posted the highest passing rate in NW Florida among all area colleges which offer nursing degrees and exceeded the passing rates for all Florida and United States Nursing programs.

OWC nursing students had a 91.89 percent pass rate on the graduates' first attempt at the national exam. The state rate is 83.10 and the national pass rate is 86.62. Among the five other nursing programs at NW Florida colleges, the average passing rate was 79.55 percent. The national test is required of all nursing program graduates across the USA who wish to practice as a Registered Nurse (RN) and the test is a key in measuring program success and ensuring employment for program graduates.

OWC Trustees also approved an agreement with several area hospitals for the college's new Surgical Technology program to use the hospitals as clinical training sites. OWC's first class of surgical technology students will use Twin Cities Hospital, Fort Walton Beach Medical Center, North Okaloosa Medical Center and Sacred Heart Hospital of the Emerald Coast for clinical rotations.

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