Clendenin Elementary to close; Kanawha BOE says new school will be built

By Matt Maccaro in News
CLENDENIN, W.Va. — Clendenin Elementary School will be the second in Kanawha County to shut its doors in the wake of devastating flooding on June 23.

The Kanawha County School Board announced Wednesday evening in a special public meeting that due to damage that amounts to 97 percent of its $3.7 million value according to FEMA, the school will close and be replaced with a new building.

The board announced the same fate for Herbert Hoover High School on the Elk River last month.

“This was beyond what FEMA would even pay for,” said Kanawha School Board member Pete Thaw. “If you’re so badly damaged, they won’t give the money. This school is so badly damaged, it was beyond the limit.”

Kanawha Superintendent Ron Duerring said it was too early to discuss specific plans for a new school, and he understood if some parents were upset.

“A school is like a second home. You heard here tonight many people said ‘I went there, my kids went through there; my parents went through there.’ So it has very special meaning to them,” said Duerring. “So when you say that you can’t go back in, that’s like the loss of your home because it’s been in the family for generations.”

But there’s a lot, Duerring explained, that goes into building a new school.

“There’s a lot of things involved in that. We have to do a land search,” he said. “People think you can just put a school anywhere and you can’t. Once we find the land, we’ve got to purchase the land. Then we’ve got to go into the design phase and the educational specs. From there, we begin building the school.

Clendenin Elementary students will begin the school year splitting time at Bridge Elementary until portables are put in place. Herbert Hoover High students will do likewise at Elkview Middle School.

“I think it’s going to be a little bit fun, because I kind of got tired of Clendenin over the years. But it’s going to be a new experience,” said Madison Nottingham, who begins 5th grade on Monday. “I’d rather be in the school than in the trailers.”

Her mother, Stephanie Nottingham, expressed concerns about packing students into the small Bridge Elementary.

“My thought is we probably should have had this taken care of before school started. The portables should be there and ready for the children if that was our option,” she said. “I have faith that everything’s going to work out, but at the same time, it’s an inconvenience for everyone.”

Several other parents had concerns over the traffic situation.

“Right now it feels like it’s going to be pretty hectic,” said Joanna Egnor, whose son was entering kindergarten. “All the parents dropping their kids off, it’s going to be a mess I think.”

Duerring anticipated a seamless transition in sharing the two schools.

“There’s really not any challenges. Our teachers are very versatile and highly professional,” the superintendent said. “They will work it out. The kids will team teach; teachers have done that before. They’ll instruct and work with with their kids in all the learning objectives that they need to have.”

Wednesday night’s meeting was held at the Clendenin Volunteer Fire Dept. building, which was filled nearly to capacity by parents, students and teachers.

The Kanawha School Board also announced that the preschool at Bridge Elementary would continue to operate.