I live in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. We have had 3 high schools in our area since at least the 1930s. There were many more, but they were consolidated into 3 schools. E. L. Meyers High School, Coughlin High School and G.A.R. High School. Meyers and GAR are 7-12 and Coughlin is 9-12. The graduating class in 2015 from Coughlin was 259, Meyers about 150 and GAR about 150. All the schools in our area are not meeting the grade testing wise. Meyers and Coughlin have issues with the buildings that change day to day. Our school board recently decided to infuriating the public, ignore the public and subvert the public by deciding to build one school.
The board decided to consolidate Meyers and Coughlin into one school. They had a choice of 2 locations. 1 was Meyers, 7.7 acres, neighborhood school, most of the school walked already and it wasn’t in a central location to create traffic problems. 2 was Coughlin, 2.4 acres, downtown, traffic problems, crime and drug problems, now have to bus both schools and the property with the higher value to sell. The board said no more property would be bought but are already proposing to buy more. Yes, they chose number 2. Then decided to add on to an existing school to put 7th and 8th graders in there. They are building over the city pool. The project is estimated to cost $100 million. They company that did the feasibility study received the job with no bid. Yes, a $100 million job, no bid, to the first company. When the people asked for this to be put on the referendum, the board voted 5-4, against the referendum. A classless display of egotism.
Why do I not want a consolidated school? There are several reasons. First and foremost is the children. Consolidated schools, with over 1000 students have been shown not to work. Test scores are lower, attendance drops, less participation is school activities, loss of the intimate parent teacher relationship and kids falling through the cracks. The housing prices next to this newly empty school will plummet 10 to 20%. A pillar in that community will be gone, the building will be left to fester like so many other empty schools across the United States and a place that had a large community involvement leaves a hole which was once filled. Another issue with consolidation. Lower income kids do not get the same level of education they get in smaller neighborhood schools. In effect, classism reigns supreme again.
Sadly our school board did not take any of these things into account. In about a year they went about their study. When informed that Governor Tom Wolf intended to put a moratorium into effect on Plancon, the state school funding project, our board rushed to a decision. They presented the plan Monday and voted on it Wednesday. That seem well thought out to you? When the board spoke, all they talked about was money. Education was not mentioned once. They believe bussing more kids will save money, haha. They believe eliminating 32 positions will save $3.1 million a year, haha. They said only 50% of landowners in the city pay taxes. I say look at how happy Utah is. They consolidated and didn’t save any money. In fact it cost more.
The board cited soil condition under Meyers as a reason for building at Coughlin. Yet they plan on adding to a school that is about 500 yards away. They claim that they are concerned with safety at Meyers, yet had a graduation ceremony there. They want to make that building into a sports complex. How is that safe? The football stadium that 4 schools use is there. They still plan on using it. How us that safe? Something seems a bit off.
I have an idea. I don’t know if it is the right or best idea but it is better then this mess. Experts say 1000 kids or less is the optimum amount for our kids to learn and test well. Built a new, smaller Meyers that meets all qualifications. Build a new Coughlin on the site where the middle and elementary school is, no more land purchases, build it to accommodate the population. This way we have 3 campus style high schools. All very close to 1 of the 5 elementary schools locally. Experts agree that this model is best.They also agree 7-12 is the best model. Why is money coming before our kids? Pennsylvanian ranks 49th in the country in state funding for education. It also has a horrible system for who gets money. Wealthier districts seem to receive more. These are things Governor Wolf is trying to fix. Let him fix it. Let our kids not have to pay off a monstrosity that we will be trying to change in 15 years. Listen to the people.