Flood replacement school for Clendenin takes big step forward

CLENDENIN, W.Va.¬†—¬†Those interested have 30 days to comment on a draft environmental assessment of the property where the new Clendenin/Bridge Elementary School will be built in Kanawha County.

Ben Ashley

Putting the assessment out for public comment is a big step toward eventually beginning construction at the site not far from where the raging Elk River destroyed Clendenin Elementary in the June 2016 flood.

MORE See draft assessment HERE

The project has been slowed with the many requirements associated with the Federal Emergency Management Agency providing most of the money for the new school. Both U.S. Senators Joe Manchin and Shelley Moore Capito have urged federal authorities to speed up the process.

Ben Ashley, the director of architectural services for the West Virginia School Building Authority, said moving the assessment into public comment gives the project some new momentum.

“We’re super excited that we’re to this point,” Ashley told MetroNews Friday. “We look forward to receiving comments from the public and we hope the reconciliation process doesn’t take too long. But we’re ready to go. We’re ready to build these schools.”

The site is off Wolverton Mountain Road. Ashley said there will have to be a lot of earth moving before the construction of the building begins. He said it’s possible some dirt could begin flying in a few months.

“Construction could technically start in September and that’s mostly earth moving. If you drive by the site right now you can’t believe it’s a site. They have to build a road up to the place for the school,” Ashley said.

Kanawha County Schools has set a public hearing on the assessment for June 18 at 6 p.m. at Elkview Middle School.

FEMA will analyze the public comments submitted during the 30-day period and determine if any reconciliation has to be made to the assessment. The final report will have to get FEMA and congressional approval before construction can begin, Ashley said.

A meeting Friday of those working on the project kept an opening date for the school in the fall of 2021. A second school for the Elk River area, a new Herbert Hoover High School, is set for a Fall 2022 opening.

Ashley said the Hoover draft environmental assessment is still waiting on a final permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. He said once that’s in it shouldn’t be long before the public comment period begins.

Ashley said once all the federal approvals are done, the SBA, state Department of Education and Kanawha County Schools will get the schools built.

“There a lot of things still to happen but we have a lot of momentum right now. We’re almost to the point where we’re in the School Building Authority’s wheelhouse. We know exactly how to build a project. We know how to bid and construct projects working with our partners in the state,” Ashley said.

The draft assessment can be viewed in person at the main branch of the Kanawha County Public Library in Charleston, the Elk Valley Branch at Crossings Mall and the Clendenin Branch.

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