Essential reporting in volatile times.

Click here to stay informed and subscribe to The Charleston Gazette-Mail.

Click #isupportlocal for more information on supporting our local journalists.

Learn more about HD Media

The new Herbert Hoover High School campus beginning to take shape near Elkview “is an excellent example of planning with foresight,” said Federal Emergency Management Administration chief Pete T. Gaynor, who observed earth-moving work underway at the school’s construction site Thursday.

“This is what disaster mitigation is all about — you build back smarter, not the way it was before, to create something resilient for the community,” Gaynor said.

Gaynor made his remarks after touring a hillside cut-and-fill site preparation for the school being performed on a 246-acre tract between Interstate 79 and U.S. 119 by Doss Enterprises of Jane Lew. He was accompanied by Kanawha County Schools Superintendent Tom Williams, West Virginia Division of Emergency Management Deputy Director Mike Oakley and FEMA’s Region III administrator, MaryAnn Tierney.

With their school building damaged beyond repair by floodwater in 2016, Hoover students have been attending classes in portable classroom trailers in Elkview while waiting for a new school to be funded and a site for it selected. FEMA is paying for at least $52 million of the new school’s $70 million price tag.

“I am pleased with the progress being made so far,” Williams said. “This community has suffered a terrible loss,” but will end up with a campus that is “state of the art, and something that will last at least the lifetime of its first students.”

Site preparation began in January, after the award of a $19.7 million contract to Doss. It involves moving 2.3 million cubic yards of earth, grading and compacting the site of the new building and athletic fields, construction of an access road and utility corridors, and installation of stormwater controls. That work is now about two-thirds complete and is expected to end by late fall.

Following his tour of the construction site, Gaynor met with town officials in Clendenin, also the scene of severe flooding four years ago. Earlier in the day, he met with state Department of Homeland Security chief Jeff Sandy, took part in a conference call with Gov. Jim Justice and toured the state Division of Emergency Management’s new operations center in Dunbar.

Reach Rick Steelhammer at, 304-348-5169 or follow

@rsteelhammer on Twitter.