W-B Area School Construction Can Move Forward

March 20, 2019

The Wilkes-Barre Area School District can proceed with the construction of a new consolidated high school in Plains Twp. after receiving a permit approving a plan to address stormwater discharge, erosion and sediment control during construction.

The Luzerne County Conservation District issued the permit with assistance from the state Department of Environmental Protection.

“This is what we hoped for. We’re glad to have it,” school district Solicitor Raymond Wendolowski said.

The school board plans to award 11 construction contracts at the next meeting on March 27. Construction is scheduled to start in early spring.

Regarding the plan to address stormwater discharge, erosion and sediment control, the district will install detention ponds on the construction site, and two permanent ponds will remain on the site after construction, Wendolowski said.

The district plans to borrow up to $137.3 million to fund the construction of a new high school between Maffett and North Main streets in Plains Twp. The district bought the 78-acre site from Pagnotti Enterprises for $4.2 million.

The district is waiting for a decision from PennDOT to approve a plan to reconfigure and adjust roadways around the site, Wendolowski said.

Some critics have objected to the project because of previous mining activity at the Plains Twp. site and elevated levels of arsenic found there. School officials insist the site will be safe because the district is working with the state Department of Environmental Protection and environmental safety measures will prevent exposure to potentially harmful soil.

When the new high school opens, the district plans to close the Coughlin and Meyers buildings and use GAR as a middle school. The oldest portion of Coughlin closed in January 2016 due to exterior deterioration and safety concerns, and students in the 11th and 12th grades were moved to the Coughlin annex in downtown Wilkes-Barre.

Since then, Coughlin students in the 9th and 10th grades have been going to the Mackin school building, which is more than 1 mile away from the Coughlin site.

Contact the writer:

mbuffer@citizensvoi­ce.com, 570-821-2073, @cvmikebuffer