Devastation remains for Kanawha teachers back in flood damaged schools

By Carrie Hodousek in News
ELKVIEW, W.Va. — Teachers in Kanawha County, who began the 2016-2017 school year Wednesday, are beginning to sort through and move their school supplies into their classrooms. For some, that means sharing a classroom on a split-schedule after devastating flood waters damaged several schools in June.

Boxes of books and supplies were spread out in the cafeteria Wednesday morning at Elkview Middle School where Herbert Hoover High School will be housed until portable classrooms are built on Elkview’s football field.

“Each of us, when we have our own classroom, it’s your room. For these Elkview teachers to take us in and they’re all smiling — I walk down the hall and they’re like ‘No it’s our classroom. It’s not my classroom. It’s our classroom,” said Julia Wright, a family and consumer science teacher at Hoover.

Herbert Hoover High School will be housed at Elkview Middle School for at least the beginning of the school year.
Wright told MetroNews everything in her classroom at Hoover was destroyed. Her room sat on the first floor of the building, which was completely flooded out. The entire school was 70 percent damaged, according to a county assessment.

“It was indescribable. Everything was upside down,” she said of the first time she saw her classroom. “It’s such a sense of loss. You become numb because it’s like I don’t know how to feel. I knew every piece of equipment.”

The shelves collapsed. The walls were moldy. Books were ruined. Wright said this year, at least for some time, she’ll have to teach from her memory.

“We’re starting from scratch. I think I’m going to have to start the school year without books. Luckily, I’ve taught the classes, so I will be going on memory,” Wright said. “It’s going to be a slow start.”

The school year will be very different, but teachers with Elkview Middle said they’re preparing for a smooth transition. Mandy Crumpler, an 8th grade West Virginia studies teacher, said students need a sense of normalcy right now.

“A lot of these kids don’t have homes,” Crumpler said. “So this is going to be the best thing that they have right now.”

Teachers will present their lessons with a more “sensitive” approach this year, Crumpler said.

“We just have to be positive. When they come here, they have to feel like they’re coming back to school with the positive teachers that they remember and they know,” she said.

“Their lives are very uncertain, but one thing they know is school,” said Jennifer Wible, 7th grade math teacher at Elkview. “They know how school works and as long as we can make our school work as normal as it is, we’ll be okay.”

Teachers at Clendenin Elementary School, a building that was almost completely destroyed, are in a similar situation. Those staff and students will be housed at Bridge Elementary School for the beginning of the year. Portable rooms will also be built there.

Kanawha County students return to school Monday. They are the first school district in West Virginia to begin the 2016-2017 year.