CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A new Herbert Hoover High School in Kanawha County is one significant step closer to getting built. The state has received word from the Federal Emergency Management Agency that it can proceed with construction more than three years following the June 2016 flood that destroyed the former school building.
“We are thrilled to receive this finding,” state Homeland Security and Emergency Management Director Mike Todorovich said in a Tuesday news release. “Rebuilding Herbert Hoover High School is a huge step in the overall recovery process for this community.”
FEMA is going to pay for most of the new school building and athletic facilities so the project has been under a federal microscope including lots of federal requirements for the proposed site. The federal agency recently found “No Significant Impact” regarding the environmental assessment done on the site.
State School Building Authority Director of Architectural Services Ben Ashley said the review was very extensive.
“All the laws and applicable federal codes that relate to environmental protection, wetland protection, natural resources, plants and wildlife, they’ve met all of the acceptable measures to clear the site so we can build a school on that site,” Ashley said. “It was a lengthy process. That’s a huge, huge step to overcome. We’re glad we’re to this point.”
The final step to secure funding for the project through Congress, Kanawha County Schools Facilities Planning. Executive Director Chuck Smith said.
“At this point it goes to the Legislative Affairs Review Committee and then it goes for Congressional notification and once it’s approved through Congress then FEMA can obligate the funds at that point,” Smith said. “We can see the light at the end of the tunnel. We’re close.”
Smith said the next step should go “fairly smoothly and quickly.”
Kanawha County Schools paid more than $3 million for the proposed site earlier this year. It’s 246 acres in the Givens Fork area. The land was previously owned by Elkview Baptist Church. It’s not far from the Elkview exit of Interstate 79. The total cost of the project will be nearly $80 million. It’s possible FEMA will pay up to 90 percent of the cost.
Ashley said architectural work has been taking place for several months. He said they basically know the footprint of the building so an earth-moving contract will be signed first.
“It behooves the entire project to let a site preparation contract out early. That will involve preparing the pad the building will sit on, there will be some tree removal, they’ll start constructing the road. It basically clears the site so the building in its final design can be placed on that spot,” Ashley said.
“That’s our goal. We are trying to hit our deadlines and still reach our target dates of opening the schools in August of 22 (2022) and we are going to take every step we can in order to hit that target,” Smith said.
Herbert Hoover students continue to attend school in portable buildings at Elkview Middle School. Those were installed in the months following the flood.
Other flood-related school construction projects are working their way through the environmental assessment including the Clendenin-Bridge Elementary School project in Kanawha County and projects to replace flood-destroyed schools in Nicholas County.
The Nicholas County Board of Education held a public meeting Monday night on plans to build new schools on the Glade Creek site near Summersville.
Information on the Herbert Hoover High School Environmental Assessment can be found at https://www.fema.gov/media-library/assets/documents/183540. For updates and information related to the June 2016 Disaster Declaration for West Virginia, please visit https://www.fema.gov/disaster/4273.