ELKVIEW, WV (WOWK) – It’s a day of celebration after Herbert Hoover High School Students finally walked in the doors to their brand new school Friday morning.

The new school was long-awaited after the devastating floods that hit parts of the Mountain State in June 2016 that affected thousands of lives and destroyed communities throughout West Virginia wiped out the former Herbert Hoover High School building.

Since then, the Huskies have been persevering through, while holding their classes in portable classrooms for the past seven years.

With the first day in the new building finally in the books, the Herbert Hoover High School community is celebrating this milestone Saturday afternoon during a football scrimmage against John Marshall High School. Earlier this summer, the Huskies announced JMHS alumnus and country music star Brad Paisley would be attending the game.

“First of all, as a John Marshall Monarch, this is a bittersweet day. I cannot believe you went and got my school to be the guinea pig on this field today. That’s a low blow,” Paisley joked.

The scrimmage is set to take place at 5:45 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 19. However, events kicked off at 4:30 p.m. with a pregame performance by the Herbert Hoover High School marching band and cheerleaders.

A ribbon cutting ceremony followed the band’s and cheerleaders’ performance with speakers including Clendenin Mayor Kay Summers, Herbert Hoover High School Principal Mike Kelly, Kanawha County Schools Superintendent Tom Williams, U.S. Senators Shelley Moore Capito and Joe Manchin, and Brad Paisley.

Herbert Hoover High School Principal Mike Kelly speaks at a ribbon cutting for the new school building. Aug. 19, 2023 (Left to Right – Clendenin Mayor Kay Summers, Herbert Hoover HS Principal Mike Kelly, US Senator Shelley Moore Capito, Country Star/WV Native Brad Paisley, and US Senator Joe Manchin)
(Photo Credit: WOWK 13 News Photographer Adam Stephens)

During his speech, Kelly spoke about the perseverance of the students that have come through Herbert Hoover since the flooding, excelling even when they had no school building to truly call home.

“We say excuses are a reason to fail. We say wishing things were different is unproductive. And we say there is greatness in traveling the hard path. And that’s what we have done and we have done it together,” said Kelly. “And we owe a debt to all of those students who fought the hard fight between 2016 and 2023, and so that’s what the challenge is to every current and future student is that you live up to the struggle that they went through.”

“Stay strong. Stay together. Stand up for Hoover. We said those words over and over and over again seven years ago.”

Herbert Hoover High School Principal Mike Kelly

WATCH: Herbert Hoover High School Principal Mike Kelly speaks at the ribbon cutting ceremony:

Amid the celebration, Senator Joe Manchin took a moment to reflect on the lives lost to the devastating flooding of June 23, 2016, and how he believes the efforts to rebuild the communities are a testament to the memories of the 23 West Virginians who died that day.

“I remember coming into West Virginia that night, and I couldn’t believe it,” Manchin said. “And though I tell you about bricks and mortars, we lost 23 brave West Virginians that day – 23. We lost grandparents, we lost children, school children, we lost moms and dads. And we’ll never forget that. So I think it’s a testament to all of them that we have that spirit to go on. You all have shown us that.

During his speech, Paisley reflected on seeing the old high school just a week after the flooding, with the basketball floor warped from the water below it and instruments floating in the band room.

“I really can’t say enough about the facility you built here. When we came here in 2016, this was the worst high school situation I’ve ever seen,” Paisley said. “It was, as Joe said, floating instruments in the band room. That floor looked like the waves at the ocean – the basketball floor. It was just one of the biggest disaster areas I’ve ever seen. And today, having seen it, what you’ve done with that, this is the nicest high school I’ve ever seen in my entire life.”

“I can’t tell you how inspiring that is to see something that devastating and that terrible turned into something so inspiring.”

Country Star and WV Native Brad Paisley

Following the scrimmage, Paisley will give a performance at the new school.

Paisley, born in Glen Dale in Marshall County in 1972, was heavily involved in helping the Mountain State recover from the historic 2016 flooding by launching a funding program. He even joined senators in the Mountain State to assess the damage following the flood, including touring the old Herbert Hoover High School.

Principal Mike Kelley told 13 News Reporter Jordan Mead on Friday that enrollment has gone up by 25 students since the floods hit in 2016. They now have around 790 students in the building.

The school also ranked in the top 15 high schools throughout West Virginia, based off of SAT scores, since the flooding hit. Herbert Hoover students repeatedly won band and show choir competitions since 2016, and school sports teams have excelled, in some cases going to the playoffs and state tournaments.