Protesters: W-B Area School Site Is A Health Hazard
PLAINS TWP. — Debbie Orlando Formola donned a makeshift hazmat suit Friday as she joined protesters at the groundbreaking ceremony for the new Wilkes-Barre Area High School.
She believes the former coal mining site along South Main Street is a health hazard and not the right place to build a school that thousands of children will attend.
“I have concerns for these children,” Formola said. “We are here begging them to stop.”
Formola, 55, is among the group of opposition candidates vying to unseat sitting board members and halt the construction of the new school.
“I don’t think it’s too late, but I do hate wasting taxpayer money,” Formola said.
While a state Department of Environmental Protection official on scene said the land can safely be repurposed under state supervision, Formola and others disagree.
Protesters at Friday’s event, representing the Save Our Schools group, held signs such as “Stop the Madness” and others with messages about alleged health hazards of building on land that is currently littered with waste coal. Several wore masks over their faces.
John Suchoski, 36, a frequent critic of the board, said he hopes residents vote in favor of the Save Our Schools candidates this year.
The group has lobbied to keep and rehabilitate Wilkes-Barre’s three neighborhood high schools — Coughlin, GAR and Meyers.
“People have a chance to voice their opinions and vote,” Suchoski said. “I don’t think building on top of coal ash is a good idea.”
Richard Holodick, 81, a retired school administrator and president of Save Our Schools, said the group has opposed consolidation efforts from the beginning, but the site selected has made the opposition become more intense.
“I don’t think there’s ever been a school built in Pennsylvania on a coal ash dump,” Holodick said.
Board member Melissa Etzle Patla, who has opposed the consolidation plan, attended Friday’s event, but staged her own protest.
During the ceremonial groundbreaking photo op, she refused to hold a shovel or wear a hard hat, which had the new “Wilkes-Barre Wolfpack” decals on them.
“I didn’t hold a shovel or anything,” Etzle Patla said. “I’m against the consolidation.”
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