CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Kanawha County Senator Corey Palumbo Wednesday blasted the Federal Emergency Management Agency for delays in replacing schools destroyed by the 2016 flood.
“The kids in the Elk River area continue to suffer,” the Charleston Democrat said on the Senate floor. “We’re two-and-a-half years after the flood and nothing’s been done to replace those schools.
The historic flood of June 2016 killed 23 people and caused millions of dollars in damages. In Kanawha County, the flood destroyed Herbert Hoover High School and Clendenin Elementary School. Since then, the Herbert Hoover students have held classes in temporary buildings, while the Clendenin students are attending Bridge Elementary.
Kanawha County school officials announced this week that the new Clendenin school won’t open until 2021 and it will be the fall of 2022 before the replacement for Herbert Hoover is complete.
Palumbo blamed FEMA for the delays. “There’s nothing that the folks in Kanawha County can do about it,” Palumbo said. “They can’t buy a piece of property, they can’t put a shovel in the ground until FEMA gives them their approval and they have been withholding it and delaying it and delaying it and delaying it.”
Kanawha County School Superintendent Ron Duerring is also frustrated. “It just seems like we just keep getting push back and pushed back,” he said earlier this week, adding that now some in the community fear the new schools will never be built.
Palumbo called on Governor Jim Justice to step in. “The Governor likes to comment and brag about his close relationship with the President. I call on the Governor to reach out to the President because it’s his FEMA that is holding up construction of these new schools.”
Palumbo said some Herbert Hoover students will end up spending their entire high school tenure in portable classrooms. “What is happening to the kids in this area is despicable.”
Palumbo toured the flooded schools in the days after the flood with his friend and high school classmate actress Jennifer Garner.