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Endangered bats delay construction of new Herbert Hoover High School

The Indiana Bat is listed as federally endangered. (WV DNR)

Bats are putting the breaks on the construction of the new Herbert Hoover High School.

It's just one of the many hold up because of federal regulations.

It's been two years since floods destroyed Herbert Hoover High School in Kanawha County. Students continued to attend classes in portable classrooms, but many people and students didn't think two years would pass without a new a location for a new school being approved.

Jermiah Elswick of Clendenin was a sophomore during the floods.

"We knew when it happened we weren't going to have a high school to graduate out of," Elswick said.

Now a Herbert Hoover graduate, Elswick said although he still was able to learn in the temporary classrooms, he wants an actual building for future students.

"I got little siblings that are moving up and hopefully they will have a high school to graduate from and not portables," Elswick said.

The combined Bridge and Clendenin Elementary School is expected to open in the fall of 2020 and the high school in 2021. This timeline was presented to lawmakers in a flood committee meeting this week from the the State School Building Authority (SBA).

SBA Interim Director of Architectural Services, Ben Ashley said the time frame is unusual for the state.

"It doesn't take this long to build the school and we are frustrated but we are keeping our nose to the grind and working through this, there is a lot of steps to do when taking these project on with FEMA," Elswick said.

Ashley said this is the first time they are building schools with the federal government's help. He said there are multiple studies that have to be done before they can start construction like a bat study that is in the works now.

"There are known Indiana Bats in the area which are endangered species so we have to do a study and there is a probably really good chance we will find them which will not allow us to cut down tree to do timbering from March to November so that really takes 6 months away from what would be an anticipated timeline," Ashley said.

While the projection date for the high school is fall of 2021, Ashley said that is worse case scenario. He said they factored in the bat study delaying the process.

West Virginia House Speaker Tim Armstead sent a letter to officials with the projects Thursday about the time frame being lengthy.

"I along with parents of the students affected are concerned by the length of time indicated by these document that will be required to complete construction of Clendenin-Bridge Elementary and Herbert Hoover High School. As you are aware, students in this areahave been through a tremendous ordeal and it is essential that we provide them access to the completed classroom as quickly as possible," Armstead wrote in the letter.

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