ELKVIEW, W.Va. — For several years, dirt and mud in the Elk River communities in Kanawha County often represented the devastation and destruction brought on by flooding.
On Wednesday, dirt represented hope and the perseverance of those communities.
More than three and a half years after Herbert Hoover High School was destroyed in the June 2016 flooding, ground was broken on a new site for the school in Elkview.
“It’s amazing,” Amy McVicker, a Herbert Hoover special education teacher said to MetroNews. “We are so happy for our kids and our community. It’s been a long time coming and it makes us proud that we can do this today (Wednesday).”
The 246 acre site, with more than $52 million coming from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) announced in November, sits in the Givens Fork area between the Elkview exit off of Interstate 79 and U.S. Route 119.
Students have been in portables next to Elkview Middle School ever since the flooding but Herbert Hoover senior Josie Moore told MetroNews the school community remained positive throughout the entire process.
“I was worried about what would happen to us,” Moore said. “Everyone was positive throughout the whole process of being in the middle school for half days to being in the portables, and now at the groundbreaking ceremony it’s more positive than ever.”
Students of all ages and grade levels in the Herbert Hoover community did the honors of breaking ground on the site with scarlet and royal blue shovels representing the high school’s colors.
Senior Joshua Swecker was one of those students and admitted that it was sad seeing the destruction following the flood but it has taught him to never give up, work with what you have and keep getting better as a person and grow.
“Our class, our community, we are strong,” he said. “We are not going to let the flood take us down for the rest of our lives. We are going to build upon this and make us stronger, make us better for the future.”
Like Moore and Swecker, junior Dustin Stuart will have spent his entire high school career in portables and never be able to learn in a physical building because of its projected opening expected in the fall of 2022.
However, Stuart told MetroNews the school is not defined by a physical building.
“The school isn’t the building itself, it’s the kids,” he said. “It’s the same if you go to church, the church isn’t the building but the people that attend it. The people who attend Herbert Hoover drive the spirit there and keep everything going.”
Speakers at the ceremony included Gov. Jim Justice, Herbert Hoover Principal Mike Kelley, Kanawha County Schools Superintendent Ron Duerring, Kanawha County Schools Board of Education President Ryan White, Clendenin Mayor Kay Summers, and Herbert Hoover senior Delani Buckner while the Herbert Hoover band played inspirational music.
McVicker, who has been a teacher at Herbert Hoover for 15 years, said she has been through it all and has never been prouder of the school than she was on Wednesday.
“We are working through it,” she said.
“We are a community, we have a great group of kids, administrators, and teachers that are going to get through it because that is what we do.”