By Michael P. Buffer, Wilkes-Barre Citizens’ Voice
PLAINS TWP. — Asbestos removal at Coughlin High School’s main building should be completed next month, according a report from Apollo Group Inc. presented at the Wilkes-Barre Area School District Board meeting on Monday.
The school district closed the main building in January to advance a plan to demolish the main building and also the annex, which is still occupied by students, and then build a new consolidated high school on the downtown site.
The school district moved Coughlin’s ninth and 10th grades to the renovated Mackin School in the city’s East End, and the 11th and 12th grades are attending classes in the annex. The district is trying to finalize a deal to lease space in the old Times Leader newspaper building for the 11th and 12th grades, and that would allow the district to move forward with the demolition.
Panzitta Enterprises Inc. wants to buy the old newspaper building from Civitas Media, convert the building into a school facility and lease space inside to the school district as a tenant. Panzitta and the school district plan to submit zoning requests for the Times Leader building and the new high school, but the submissions are not on the agenda for the Sept. 21 zoning meeting.
School officials hope the zoning requests will be ready for the Oct. 19 zoning meeting. The district plans to start removing asbestos from the Coughlin annex after it becomes unoccupied, said Gary Salijko of Apollo Group.
The new high school is being designed to merge Coughlin with Meyers High School. The cost is estimated at $82 million, and the new high school could open in four or five years.
Critics of the consolidation plan asked the board at Monday’s meeting to consider getting a second opinion. Attorney Kim Borland said an independent review of the plan would cost less than $100,000.
On Aug. 17, the zoning hearing board approved requests that will allow the expansion of Kistler Elementary School for grades 7 and 8. The $22 million Kistler expansion and the consolidated high school in downtown Wilkes-Barre for grades 9-12 will allow Meyers to close.
Meyers — located across from Kistler on Old River Road in South Wilkes-Barre — is used for grades 7-12. Borland said he plans to file an appeal of the Kistler zoning decision this week in the Luzerne County Court of Common Pleas.
The school board on Monday also approved a motion to seek bids for a roof-replacement project at GAR Junior Senior High School. It could cost more than $627,000, Salijko said.