ELKVIEW, W.Va. — As the Elkview community prepares to mark the seven-year anniversary of the June 2016 flood this month, the destroyed Herbert Hoover High School is getting ready to open a new school building.
Members of the Kanawha County Board of Education joined Herbert Hoover Principal Mike Kelley and contractors for a tour of the new school Wednesday morning. The building is located less than a half mile off the I-79 Elkview exit.
Kelley said the new location is part of the reason why there’s been a lot of interest from students outside the county.
“We are having a lot of students asking to transfer in from out of area. I think part of that is because we have a good reputation, part of it is because we have a new building, part of it is the convenience to get here and back,” Kelley said.
The old school building was located further north toward Clendenin off U.S. Route 119. High water on June 23, 2016 destroyed the building. Band uniforms, instruments, athletic equipment, the gymnasium floor and more were all ruined.
Almost 7 years after the 2016 flood wiped out the old Herbert Hoover High School, a new building is set to open this fall.
— Carrie Hodousek (@CarrieHodousek) June 7, 2023
While school officials were deciding how to rebuild, many students and staff were also dealing with a loss of their own. Thousands of homes were impacted and 23 lives were lost statewide.
Students and staff have been in portable classrooms since the flood. On Aug. 18, they’ll be in a real school building for the first time in seven years.
“It was a very, very difficult and traumatic time for our community, but we’ve stuck together, and we’ve moved forward. We’re about to open what I believe is going to be the nicest school building in the state,” Kelley said.
Kanawha County School Superintendent Tom Williams said while the loss of human life and the pain of trekking through muddy homes won’t easily go away, he hopes the new school building will serve as a reminder of how far they’ve come.
“I don’t know that they’ll ever be closure on what the folks up here went through. I don’t think you ever forget losing family, friends and your home, but I hope this helps makes things better for them,” Williams said.
Ground was broken on the $103 million project in Jan. 2020. There were minor delays with the shipment of steel and other supplies. Kanawha County BOE President Tracy White said she was impressed with the progress since then.
“To see classrooms that have furniture in it and bathrooms that have walls and toilets, it’s great to see things moving in,” she said.
The facility includes a number of upgrades including sound panels in every hallway to reduce noise, updated science lab stations, televisions that will be installed for sporting events in common areas, a weight room, wrestling room, auditorium, gymnasium, locker rooms, restrooms, sound proof practice rooms located inside the band room and more.
White said it was overwhelming to take it all in.
“The athletic department is amazing. To see the huge weight room, the CTE area, the art, the pottery. There’s just so many opportunities for our students,” she said.
Clendenin Mayor Kay Summers was also on Wednesday’s tour and she said liked new security features including a windows that open up in each classroom.
“I think that’s fantastic. It gives me chills,” she said. “I’m really proud of that.”
Over the summer months, teachers will be moving their classroom supplies out of the portables and into the new school building, Williams said.
“They’re moving classroom boxes into the classrooms now, teacher supplies and stuff they had in the portables. It’s just a real exciting time to finally see everything coming together,” he said.
Meanwhile, progress is still being made on the new Clendenin Elementary School nearby. The project was delayed more than Hoover’s due to soil issues. School board members also toured that new school last month. The goal is to open for the 2024-2025 school year.
The first day of school in Kanawha County is Aug. 18.