WILKES-BARRE, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — It was a monumental change as the Wilkes-Barre Area School District consolidated its three high schools. A decision met with some opposition.

“The message that we hope to send is that three schools in Wilkes-Barre work, they worked for nearly a century, and there’s no reason to change it now,” stated Lois Grimm, a parent.

Nevertheless, G.A.R. And Meyers faced off for the last time as rivals on the football field in 2018, putting an end to the nearly 90-year-old tradition.

“It’s a part of the tradition of G.A.R. Football, and it’s sad to see it go, but it’ll live on forever,” said Mary Jean Petrovich.

School district officials and local politicians broke ground on the new state-of-the-art $80 million building in 2019.

Not long after, students had their first day as members of the Wolf Pack last September.

One major concern? Fights.

“We didn’t have the initial issues that were going around in the community that there were going to be a large number of fights and dissension and issues, when in fact, it was the exact opposite,” principal Patrick Peters said.

Though several videos were posted to social media showcasing fights inside the new high school, the numbers tell a different story.

There were 494 discipline occurrences at all three schools combined, compared to 143 at Wilkes-Barre Area High School.

“As an administration, we had an idea of what we wanted and what we expected. I believe the kids, faculty, and staff rose up to that. They overall did a great job. With any new school year and new school building, especially coming off of covid, but we adapted, we overcame and we learned,” principal Peters added.

“It’s one thing to build the building but to bring everybody together to form their own culture, traditions. The student lead the way. We couldn’t be more pleased on the way the students handled themselves and really created an environment for future generations to attend this school,” explained superintendent Brian Costello.

As for the future, superintendent Brian Costello says he hopes to receive fair funding, putting Wilkes-Barre area students on the same playing field as their counterparts at wealthier school districts across the Commonwealth.

“Every year we are $3 million underfunded. This year we are appreciative for the additional funding we have received from the level-up initiative. However, that most certainly needs to be sustained. We have a long way to go before becoming fairly funded,” Costello continued.

You can read the companion piece to this story in today’s edition of the Times Leader newspaper.