St. Matthew’s to reopen in May

St. Matthew’s University School of Medicine announced Monday it is on track to reopen in May after repairing damage caused by Hurricane Ivan.

A May opening would allow St. Matthew’s to conduct its summer semester here.

The university temporarily moved its operations to South Portland in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Ivan.

In a press release issued by St. Matthew’s, the university credits Leader of Government Business McKeeva Bush for facilitating the temporary move to Maine.

Mr. Bush wrote letters to US President George Bush, to the Governor of Maine and to the Attorney General of Maine asking for assistance and permission to make the move after Ivan.

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Students only lost one week of classes because of the rapid acquisition of pf campus and residence hall facilities in Maine, and a decision to lengthen the fall semester.

‘Parents and students were very pleased the University was able to get back on its feet so quickly,’ said school president Dr. Michael Harris.

‘We found a modern facility similar to what we had in Grand Cayman, and housing within a hundred yards of the campus.’

The University sustained major damage to both its campus and to the Residence Hall where the first-year students lived.

It had originally hoped to reopen in time for the January semester, but the scope of the damage made it impossible.

The Residence Hall had significant damage to 100 out of 115 rooms, all of which are in the process of being completely remodelled.

Located on West Bay Road at what was once the Sleep Inn Hotel, the Residence Hall had just undergone a $1 million remodelling and reopened the previous December before Ivan struck.

Campus Manager Sebastien Guilbard said the fact that the Residence Hall had just been remodelled helped with the insurance settlement.

‘It was easy for the insurance adjusters because everything was brand new and they were able to say the rooms should be put back to brand new,’ he said.

The Campus itself at the Regatta Office Park sustained total destruction of its ground floor facilities because of storm surge.

The second and third floor also had some damage because of leaks in the roof, but the school’s library only had minimal damage, Dr. Harris said.

Many of St. Matthew’s students evacuated Grand Cayman prior to Hurricane Ivan on specially arranged Cayman Airways charters.

The remainder of students, who were scattered in various locations on the island, were found and evacuated within four days after the storm.

‘We were very pleased with the way our faculty and administration handled the storm,’ Dr. Harris said. ‘They were all very mindful of the well-being of the students.’

All students went to the temporary Maine campus, with the exception of one, Dr. Harris said.

Since temporarily re-locating, the school has added almost 100 students, which Dr. Harris partially credits to the recent accreditation of the University by New York State.

A similar accreditation from California was close to happening, but was postponed because of the hurricane.

‘They want to come back down here and check us out again after we reopen,’ said Dr. Harris.

When the University reopens in May, Dr. Harris said he expects about 450 students.

‘Come September, we’ll probably be over 500 students, which is what our goal was,’ he said.

Work on the Residence Hall should be completed by mid-March, Mr. Guilbard said.

Since the Residence Hall is only used to house first-year students, additional housing must be found for more than 270 students by the time they start arriving for the beginning of classes on 2 May.

‘Individuals interested in renting apartments or homes for the students should contact me,’ said Mr. Guilbard. His e-mail address is [email protected].

The University will also begin the process of rehiring its local staff starting the beginning of February.

Only four out of 18 local staff members were kept on after the storm, although the others were offered temporary positions at the school’s administrative offices in Florida.

‘Nearly all of our former employees will be offered their positions back,’ said Mr. Guilbard.

Most of the University’s faculty is now teaching at the temporary campus in Maine. More than 90 percent of the faculty is expected to return to Grand Cayman for the school’s reopening in May.

Two University events will were also announced in Monday’s press release.

First, the University will hold its graduation ceremony on 30 April at the Westin Casuarina Resort.

Dr. Elizabeth Armstrong, the director for education programs for Harvard Medical International will be the keynote speaker at the ceremony.

St. Matthew’s University said it had developed close ties with Harvard Medical University, a prestigious institution in Massachusetts.

In December 2005, the University said Harvard Medical International will host a faculty development programme for St. Matthew’s faculty. The event was originally scheduled for December 2004, but had to be postponed because of Ivan.

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