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People gathered Thursday evening outside of the Kanawha County Board of Education building in Charleston to protest the school board’s choice to return to five-day in-person instruction.

The Kanawha County Board of Education voted unanimously Thursday to pay about $30.7 million for a new school to replace Clendenin Elementary, which was vacated after the June 2016 flood damaged it.

The school will consolidate Clendenin Elementary and Bridge Elementary, which took the Clendenin students into its building after the flood. While Kanawha approved the payment, the Federal Emergency Management Agency will actually pay 90% of the cost, and the state will pay the rest.

It will be on the Wolverton Mountain site that the school system is seizing through eminent domain. Eminent domain allows governments to seize private property for public use, but governments must pay those private owners for their loss.

Oil and gas company Cunningham Energy LLC had tried to intervene in the eminent domain case, saying Kanawha taking the property would jeopardize an oil drilling well pad that could produce an estimated $59 million in revenue.

Cunningham formerly owned the property. In a separate case, it was suing the company that newly owned the property to get back its mineral leasehold interests both within and beyond the 35-acre site the school system sought.

Kanawha Circuit Court Judge Jennifer Bailey denied Cunningham’s motion to intervene in the eminent domain case in February.

The school board is paying Wolf Creek Contracting to build the school. Wolf Creek is headquartered in Waterford, Ohio, roughly a half-hour north of Parkersburg.

The only other bidder was Teays Valley-based Hayslett Construction, which said it could do the work for $39.8 million.

Chuck Smith, facilities planning executive director, said the new elementary school should be open to students in August 2022.

Smith expects the property to cost less than $50,000 when the school system seizes it through eminent domain.

Also Thursday, several opponents of Kanawha’s choice to resume five-day per week in-person instruction appeared at the board meeting. The leaders of both major local teacher unions said a majority of their members don’t want to have students in classrooms five days a week over safety concerns.

Jay O’Neal, a teacher at West Side Middle in Charleston, said his school doesn’t have a school nurse everyday.

“If we’re going to have school every day, shouldn’t we have a nurse there every day?” O’Neal asked.

Reach Ryan Quinn at,,

304-348-1254 or follow

@RyanEQuinn on Twitter.