ELKVIEW, W.Va. — Several hundred residents packed into the auditorium at Elkview Middle School Wednesday night found out for certain that what they’d feared for weeks was true: Herbert Hoover High School will not reopen in the aftermath of historic flooding.
A special Kanawha County Board of Education meeting specifically to address the flood’s impact on the county’s schools was attended by many in the Elk River community, including parents, teachers, coaches and students at Hoover, which FEMA declared last week as having over 70 percent damage.
“They do a percentage, and when it costs more to restore it than the actual market value, that’s when they declare it a disaster,” said Kanawha Superintendent Ron Duerring, who announced that the Clendenin-area school would close.
Duerring told the standing room only crowd that a new school would be built, perhaps within two to three years, that could be covered between 75-90 percent by FEMA.
“It’s mixed emotions. You kind of got the excitement of the new school, but it sucks you’re stuck in portables,” said Jacob Mullins, an incoming Hoover freshman.
To begin the 2016-17 school year, Herbert Hoover students will split half days with Elkview Middle School students at the building until portable trailers are put in place on the football field at Elkview. Clendenin Elementary students will do likewise at Bridge Elementary.
Free lunches will be offered at Elkview Middle School, and a bus schedule will be forthcoming.
“FEMA did it for us,” said board member Pete Thaw on the decision to close Hoover. “FEMA does not even entertain giving money on a school that badly damaged.”
Herbert Hoover principal Mike Kelley spoke at Wednesday night’s meeting, and promised that the students who lived through the aftermath of the flood at the school in the coming years would be honored when the new building came to fruition.
“We need them to take on that leadership role. We need them to help us through this time of adversity. For that, I know that all the future generations of Herbert Hoover High School students are going to think of them with great respect,” Kelley said.
Herbert Hoover High School is more than a building, several parents said.
“I graduated from Herbert Hoover and had three children graduate from Herbert Hoover. It’s sad that our school is not going to be there anymore. But it’s not the school, it’s the people,” said Anita Edmonds. “We’re survivors on the Elk River. We’ll be strong again.”
Members of the board of education opened the floor for questions following an information session.
“This was a wonderful meeting,” Thaw said. “I mean, the size and the enthusiasm. It’s so good to see these people being so upbeat in a bad situation.”
After seeing the way his students had responded to the flood, giving up their typical summer fun to help their neighbors, Kelley was more confident than ever that Hoover would pull through.
“It’s been an awesome thing to see kids be so remarkable in these tough times,” he said. “I believe in this community. We will lean on each other; they will lift me up and help me, and I have no doubt we’re going to come through this and be better than ever.”
Herbert Hoover first opened its doors in Sept. 1963.