By Michael P. Buffer, Wilkes-Barre Citizens’ Voice
WILKES-BARRE — Coughlin High School students returned to classrooms for a new school year Monday with the ninth and 10th grades in the renovated Mackin School and the 11th and 12th grades at the old annex building in downtown Wilkes-Barre.
The split began in January after the district closed Coughlin’s main building on North Washington Street in the city. In May, the Wilkes-Barre Area School District began a pre-demolition project that included the removal of asbestos from the main building.
“All it is is brick,” Coughlin Principal Patrick Patte said, adding the pre-demolition work inside the main building should be done in a few weeks.
The district plans to demolish the main building and annex and build a new consolidated high school on the site, but the 11th and 12th grades need to be relocated first.
The district is trying to finalize a deal to lease space in the old Times Leader newspaper building for the 11th and 12th grades. 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.
School officials hope the renovations to the Times Leader building can be done for the 2017-18 school year. Coughlin senior David Brigido said he is a little disappointed the Times Leader building won’t be ready during his last year.
“I’m happy. I’m excited to start my senior year,” Brigido said, leaving the annex at the end of Monday’s school day.
The renovated Mackin is climate-controlled, and the new high school will also be climate-controlled. The annex is not.
“It’s just hot,” senior Fernando De La Cruz said. Brigido said the temperature in one annex classroom was 85 degrees. Fans inside helped with the heat, De La Cruz said.
Coughlin’s main building opened in 1911. The annex was added in 1955.
Patte was busy Monday afternoon helping students get on the right buses outside the annex. Students were getting off buses coming from the Mackin site in the city’s East End to hop on buses outside the annex on North Washington Street.
Some students were a little confused because they had to get on different buses to take them to Solomon Plains Elementary/Junior High School for sports practices, Patte said.
The new high school is being designed to merge Coughlin with Meyers High School in South Wilkes-Barre. The cost is estimated at $82 million, and the new high school could open in four or five years.