FEMA still working on report as Kanawha board moves to acquire property for school

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has said it is continuing to work to complete environmental assessments for the replacement of flood damaged schools in Kanawha County.

FEMA released a statement on Thursday that read there have been multiple revisions to environmental assessment draft document to the large development projects and that is usual to projects of such magnitude.

The environmental report has taken several months as FEMA added that all parties have been actively engaged in this process to ensure that it completed as quickly as practical and it continues to support the schools.

This coming on the heels of the Kanawha County Board of Education passing a resolution on Wednesday to acquire property on which to build the new elementary school.

Ryan White

Board president Ryan White told MetroNews that the reports from FEMA are “nearly complete” so acquiring the land for the elementary is a positive step.

“We have been talking about acquiring the property for quite a while,” White said. “We have been holding off until FEMA finished up their environmental assessment because we did not want the school system to acquire property when FEMA did not approve of it.

“At this point in time, we believe it is going to be beneficial to move forward with this particular piece of land. We are comfortable enough to where the environmental assessment is at this time.”

White said the elementary school is still scheduled to be complete by Fall 2021 on a 35-acre tract near Jordan Creek. The land was previously owned by Vest Oil & Gas Holdings, LLC. The school system said the price of the tract and more details on the acquisition are still being negotiated.

“We are doing what we can,” White said. “That is why we wanted to take this action to make sure we are ready to go when FEMA gives us the approval. We want to get this started and get this completed as soon as possible.”

The high school is not apart of this recent development, but White said that is next in line. The potential property for the school is on the Given Fork site and the school is still slated to open in 2022.

“We are more confident that we can come to an agreement with the current owner on the purchase of that property,” White said.

The issue of the school construction took center stage with politicians in recent weeks. U.S. Senator Shelley Moore Capito made a call to talk with FEMA on the process, state Senator Corey Palumbo (D-Kanawha) blasted FEMA during the legislative session and Delegate Dean Jeffries, (R-Kanawha) wrote a letter to Gov. Jim Justice for help on speeding up the process.

Students from both schools have been learning in portables since the ravaging floods. Most of the funding for both school’s rebuilding is expected to come from FEMA.

Also in the statement from FEMA, the agency expressed support for schools in Nicholas County. Environmental reports are also required for the replacement of Summersville Middle School with a consolidated Nicholas County Middle School, High School and Technical Education Center, and the replacement of Richwood Middle School and High School with a new facility at the Cherry River Elementary School site, FEMA said.