Duerring looks to consolidate Bridge, Clendenin Elementary schools

By Alex Thomas

ELKVIEW, W.Va. – At an information meeting Monday, Kanawha County Schools Superintendent Ron Duerring announced plans to consolidate Clendenin Elementary and Bridge Elementary schools to create a “state-of-the-art” facility.

Clendenin Elementary was destroyed in last June’s flood. Clendenin Elementary students have been using available space at Bridge Elementary while waiting for portable classrooms to be installed.

Herbert Hoover High School was also destroyed in the flood, and those students are currently splitting the school day with students at Elkview Middle School.

The new school would serve students from both Clendenin Elementary and Bridge Elementary, as well as have up to date technology and new playground equipment. While a new location has not been officially announced, the leading site is at Hokie Lane in Clendenin, a site more than 2.5 miles away from the Clendenin Elementary building.

Duerring said while he understands the emotional attachment some have to Clendenin Elementary, this does provide the opportunity to build something better.

“The majority of the people understand why it has to be done and why we’re moving in that direction,” Duerring said. “There’s certainly going to be people upset and emotional about it, but that comes because your school is your home away from home.”

Parents raised concerns at the meeting regarding the move away from Clendenin’s original location as well as the travel time students may be dealt.

Shannon Hall, the mother of a daughter currently attending Bridge Elementary, said she is worried about how a new school would affect her family’s morning routine.

“I would like to have more concrete answers about what they’re going to do if they are going to pick up more children,” Hall said. “My children are actually out of area and I currently drive them to school. If they move the school further up the road, I need to know if they are going to have buses, are they going to pick up extra kids or do I need to go ahead and transfer them to another school.”

Clendenin Elementary School Principal Vanessa Brown said she is aware there are multiple factors that have affected families in recent years, but she believes Duerring and the Kanawha County Board of Education are doing their best to improve local education.

“The good thing about leaving tonight’s meeting is that there’s going to be a new school, and there’s going to be lots of possibilities for the education of our children. That’s the highlight,” Brown said.

Another item on the meeting’s agenda was addressing portable classrooms for both Clendenin Elementary and Herbert Hoover High students.

Duerring said Clendenin Elementary students should have classrooms by the end of February, while Herbert High students will have to wait until the beginning of April.

Duerring said procedures laid out by FEMA has dragged out the installation of the classrooms.

“What people don’t understand is that if you miss a step, FEMA can come in four, five years later and say, ‘You’re going to pay back these millions,’ and we can’t afford that to happen,” Duerring said.

Greg Whittington, owner of Whittington Fence Company and father of a Herbert Hoover High student, said he understands the situation.

“I know dealing with FEMA that they’re governing the money,” Whittington said.

Whittington also said while his stepdaughter’s grades have been affected by the new schedule, he does feel the board is working on finding a solution that improves student performance in a better environment.

“If you look at Clendenin, it was not a new school,” Whittington said.

The new school would have 350-375 students, with a student to teacher ratio of 16.5-to-1. Duerring said a hearing on consolidation would likely take place in the fall.