CLENDENIN, W.Va. — The Federal Emergency Management Agency has approved funding for a new Clendenin Elementary School in Kanawha County following the destruction of the school’s previous building in the June 2016 flood.
The $26.9 million allocation represents 90 percent of the cost to build the school on a hillside just south of Clendenin. FEMA has now approved funding for all schools destroyed in the devastating flood of four years ago including Herbert Hoover High in Kanawha County and new schools in the Richwood and Summersville areas of Nicholas County. Total FEMA funding for the new school projects is approximately $210 million.
West Virginia School Building Authority Director of Architectural Services Ben Ashley said it’s been a long four years gaining the necessary approval to receive the federal funding for the multiple projects.
“Because there’s federal money it also comes with federal rules and regulations and laws you have to follow in developing these projects, We’re happy to meet those caveats, a lot of them were challenging, a lot of unknowns that we charted into, it certainly was a process but we’re glad whee we are now,” Ashley said.
The new Clendenin Elementary, which will include Bridge Elementary, will be constructed off of U.S. Route 119 on Wolverton Mountain Road. Ashley said it’s a top of the hill site that will require a lot of earth-moving before construction can begin on the building.
“Unfortunately there’s not a lot of flat land in that area that’s not in the flood plain. We had to make a good site for this project but it’s going to be a great one and the project is going to be well-monitored,” Ashley said.
Second District Congressman Alex Mooney first announced the awarding of the FEMA grant Wednesday.
“I’m glad this FEMA funding was secured for the Clendenin Elementary School so that students can continue to learn, study and grow in a safe, healthy and clean environment,” Mooney said in a news release.
U.S. Senators Shelley Moore Capito and Joe Manchin released statements Thursday.
“As we approach the fourth anniversary of the 2016 flood, we are reminded of the devastating impact it had on our state, especially in Clendenin,” Capito said. “Since then, our community has come together to support one another as West Virginians do. This funding will assist in the construction of a new elementary school and provide much needed support for families across the area.”
Manchin also marked the uncoming anniversary of the flood.
“It has been nearly four years since the terrible 2016 floods that ravaged West Virginia. To this day, families and communities are still rebuilding from those terrible floods,” Manchin said. “This funding has been eagerly awaited by the Clendenin community, and I am pleased to see that all of our schools damaged in those terrible floods are finally on track to be rebuilt.”
Gov. Jim Justice said the topic of funding has been part of an ongoing conversation with FEMA.
“I’ve been in constant communication with our friends at FEMA to bring this money to West Virginia so we can move forward in building the all-new Clendenin Elementary School and I send my sincere thanks to all our Congressional Representatives for their help in securing this funding,” Justice said.
Earth-moving work will include the relocation of a few streams on the property. Kanawha County Schools was able to work through a legal dispute about mineral rights on the property.
Students who would have usually attended school at Clendenin Elementary joined with Bridge Elementary in the Bridge building beginning in the 2016-2017 school year. The school attendance areas will stay together in the new school.
FEMA has approved $131 million to build replacement schools for Richwood High and Richwood Middle schools in Nicholas County. The money will also finance new schools for Summersville Middle, Nicholas County High and the Nicholas County Career and Technical Education Center.
Construction is underway in Kanawha County for a new Herbert Hoover High School. FEMA has approved for $52 million for that project.
Ashley said the SBA is glad to have the funding approval process behind it and is looking forward to continue to work with the school districts and contractors to build the schools over the next few years.
“We’re kind of in our wheelhouse now,” Ashley said. “Everything to this point was outside of the SBA and (county school) traditional school building requirements. We’re into the part now where we’re used to this process.”
Next Tuesday, June 23, is the four-year anniversary of the June 2016 flood that claimed 23 lives in West Virginia.