Nearly three years after Clendenin Elementary was destroyed by the June 2016 flood, representatives from the Federal Emergency Management Agency presented findings from its environmental assessment and field work during a meeting Tuesday night at Elkview Middle School.
The new Clendenin Elementary School was recommended to be built on Wolverton Mountain Road, in Elkview. The building, designed by ZMM Architects & Engineers, will house grades pre-K through five and will be able to hold nearly 500 students.
Stephanie Everfield, Region III environmental officer for FEMA, said as a parent, she completely understands how frustrated locals have been with the amount of time it has taken to get the new school started. However, she said this is a step-by-step process that must be done completely. The environmental study must be completed before permanent work is started on the proposed site.
The process consists of making sure a variety of smaller environmental preservation laws are followed. These are all contained under the National Environmental Policy Act, which provides project planning framework and determines the level of environmental planning necessary for a project.
“The National Environmental Policy Act is our umbrella law, and it allows for us to have public involvement for our projects, so the public has an input on what will affect their community,” Everfield said.
Everfield said FEMA is hoping residents of the area will take a look at the draft environmental assessment and let her agency know if anything was missed in the process.
The draft can be found at both the Clendenin and Elk Valley branches of the Kanawha County Public Library and online at https://www.fema.gov/disaster/4273.
The public comment period opened June 6 and will last until July 6.
“They may be able to tell us something that we did not figure out during our extensive process. It has happened in the past,” she said. “We would like the public to comment on what they may know about the area, what we may have missed about the area, and we will add those comments to our draft environmental assessment.”
If anything is found by the public, Everfield said FEMA will revisit the laws to make a better environmental impact determination.
Even though residents have been waiting almost three years for the project to be started, Everfield said FEMA’s assessment was completely streamlined.
“Normally the process actually takes a year, so we’ve expedited the process by having scoping meetings with all of our regulatory agencies and committing them to less than the mandated time to return a review to us,” she said. “We’ve significantly cut the time in half.”
Due to this, once the draft environmental assessment is finalized and the land officially purchased by the Kanawha County Board of Education, building can finally begin.
Adam Krason, one of ZMM’s principal architects, said if everything goes as planned, the company will be able to bid the project, which he expects to occur in mid-August.
“We’ll put the project out for bid and anticipate a groundbreaking probably in October of this year, and the students will be in it for the 2021-2022 academic year,” he said.
ZMM Architects has worked with Kanawha County Schools previously on building Mary C. Snow and Edgewood elementary schools, in Charleston; however, Krason said this school will be unique to the area.
“We didn’t want to repeat Edgewood Elementary School, which is on the West Side, and put it in Clendenin. We wanted the school to reflect what the people in Clendenin wanted,” he said. “So, we heard that they wanted more natural materials to look like a lodge, so we implemented some wood, metal, stone and glass.”
Krason said he hopes this is one positive that comes out of what was a terrible tragedy for the area.
FEMA representatives said they invite anyone to provide their comments on the project by either emailing them FEMA-R3-EHP-Public Comment@fema.dhs.gov or sending a mailed response to Everfield’s Region III office at 615 Chestnut St. 6th Floor, Philadelphia, PA, 19106.