School District Feels Financial Pain of Aging Schools

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Wilkes-Barre, Luzerne County — Just one look at Coughlin High School tells you the downtown Wilkes-Barre building has seen better days. Coughlin senior Kimberly Sanchez said, “It’s dirty. It’s like a whole bunch of cockroaches and stuff.” Fellow senior Bradley Keen added, “Between, you know, looking like a prison and all the windows boarded up and what not, everything falling, it’s actually scary.”

Wilkes-Barre Area School District will replace the crumbling Coughlin High School by building a new $75 million school on the North Washington Street site. Construction could begin as early as 2017 and once complete would house both Coughlin and Meyers High School students. But what does the district do with Coughlin students in the short term. “We’re looking at costs but we’re looking at long-term use, too,” said Wilkes-Barre Area School Superintendent Bernard Prevuznak.

Roughly 500 current Coughlin 9th and 10th graders will be transferred to Mackin Elementary School on Hillard Street by early January. The three story building from the 1930s has been vacant for more than a decade and is undergoing nearly $8 million in renovations. Coughlin’s current 11th and 12th graders will finish out the school year using the Coughlin annex while older parts of the building are closed. After that, future Coughlin juniors and seniors will face the prospect of either attending classes at the annex or even in modular classrooms. “So, you’re looking at the Coughlin students being housed at Mackin, possibly the annex or the modulars probably to 2020,” said Supt. Prevuznak.

If the district choses modular classrooms, one possible location for those would be the grounds of Solomon Plains Educational Complex in Plains Township. Modulars would cost roughly $2.5 million but according to Supt. Prevuznak are a cheaper option than the Coughlin annex. “Just the use of the annex in trying to keep that going as sort of our lifeboat for our 11th and 12th graders would be the idea of closer to 5 or 6 (million dollars).”

Supt. Prevuznak said if the district opts for modular classrooms, those structures could one day be used for elementary education in the district. He said the renovated Mackin Elementary School could eventually house career technology center students of be utilized as a STEM (Science, Technology, English, Math) center. If the Coughlin annex is renovated, it could be used in conjunction with the new high school building project. Wilkes-Barre Area School District will decide in the coming weeks about the long-term future of the annex.

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