The Kanawha County Commission revealed Friday that damages to Herbert Hoover High total 70 percent of its roughly $17.6 million appraised value.
The information came the day after Kanawha schools Superintendent Ron Duerring said he didn’t know if Hoover would ever reopen, in the wake of the late-June flooding that filled much of it with 6 to 7 feet of water, and filled the boiler room with 10 feet.
Kanawha floodplain manager Chuck Grishaber said that any time a building is more than 50 percent damaged in such a situation, it has to be brought into compliance with national flood insurance policy.
“That would mean that entire building would have to be elevated, I’m guessing about 8 feet,” Grishaber said of the high school, built in 1963. He said that would be nearly impossible to accomplish and that the level of mold is so high that there seems to be no way to clean it.
Charles Wilson, Kanawha’s executive director of facilities planning, noted that people aren’t allowed inside Hoover without proper safety gear because of the mold.
Grishaber said he’ll meet Monday with Duerring and Federal Emergency Management Agency representatives to discuss options. Duerring has said the school, near the flood-ravaged town of Clendenin, has about 800 students.
“We just received the information this afternoon,” Duerring wrote in an email to the Gazette-Mail on Friday. “I will not comment on it at this time. We need to have further discussion with FEMA representatives.”
County Commission President Kent Carper said that if the public school system decides not to repair Hoover, it needs to build a new high school in the same area.
“Those people deserve nothing less than that,” Carper said, “and I’m confident that the Board of Education will do just that.”
A Friday afternoon news release from the commission, in which Carper said the commission will work with the school board to help students, also said officials from FEMA and the state Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, along with Grishaber, visited Hoover on July 9 for a property damage assessment.
The commission said it received FEMA documentation Friday morning. County Manager Jennifer Sayre said repairs would cost $12.3 million, while Hoover’s appraised value is $17.6 million.
The actual repair cost would be substantially higher, though, because Hoover would be required to be brought up to 2016 codes.
“Under the National Flood Insurance Program rules, if a building is substantially damaged, which means it’s damaged greater than 50 percent of its appraised value, then any repair or replacement has to be up to current codes,” said Jimmy Gianato, the state’s homeland security director.
He said late Friday afternoon that he didn’t know if FEMA would legally be able to provide funding to repair the school through the federal Public Assistance Program.
“If Herbert Hoover High School is found to be an eligible applicant, there may be options available to repair, rebuild or relocate the facility,” FEMA media relations manager Jim Homstad wrote in an email. “Any eligible options would be at a 75 percent federal share with the remaining 25 percent being shared between the applicant and sub-applicant.”
Gianato said the 25 percent match in FEMA-funded projects can come from local jurisdictions or a possible special appropriation by state lawmakers.
Duerring revealed Thursday that Hoover students will start the school year on time, on Aug. 8, by sharing Elkview Middle School with students there. Middle-schoolers will attend in the morning and high-schoolers in the afternoon, both with reduced daily instructional minutes that he said will be made up with digital instruction.
Hoover students eventually will move to portable classrooms to be placed on Elkview’s football field. The state Board of Education approved Thursday a minimum-instructional-minutes waiver, allowing the plan to proceed.
As of late last week, Duerring had said plans still were to open all four flood-damaged Kanawha public schools in time for students to start Aug. 8.
Wilson, the Kanawha school facilities official, said he doesn’t believe any part of the Hoover site is a viable place for a new school, although one could perhaps be built with a higher foundation for a high cost.
He also said he doesn’t expect that Hoover students would be consolidated into another school, considering the travel times to other Kanawha high schools and considering that these high schools would have to have additions to absorb the enrollment.
He also said Friday that Clendenin Elementary won’t be able to open for students on Aug. 8, and that students there would be moved into portable classrooms placed outside of Bridge Elementary, in Elkview, with students from both schools sharing the Bridge cafeteria and, perhaps, other spaces in Bridge.
Wilson said national electric codes require replacement of electrical systems that have been underwater, as Clendenin Elementary’s was. He also said the building’s wooden flooring and joists probably need replacement, as well.
But Deputy Superintendent Tom Williams said no final decision had been made and that he is hopeful one will be made next week. He said the school system is awaiting information on whether FEMA will fund portables or not.