Wilkes-Barre Area School District Superintendent Brian Costello has scheduled three “town hall” meetings, one at each high school, for Aug. 28, 29 and 30. The move comes two weeks after new reports detailed additional structural woes at the Meyers and GAR Memorial buildings.
The Meyers report, provided to the Times Leader July 23, found new wall settlement in the wood shop and expanded masonry cracks in some hallways, deteriorating steel supports behind some masonry due to water infiltration, and worsening of loose marble tiles above the grand staircase. The report urged that the staircase marble issue be addressed before school starts.
Despite those findings, the report determined the school is still safe for students to use this fall. But the issue dominated public comments at Monday’s monthly meeting, when Superintendent Brian Costello reiterated the finding that it will be safe.
The most immediate concern is a tunnel that passes under a walkway and leads to Memorial Football Stadium. The tunnel was routinely used to bring an ambulance onto the field during football games because the field sits below street level.
The walkway was deemed unsafe last year and the tunnel closed, which became a public issue when an athlete broke a leg during a football game and had to wait 10 minutes before the ambulance crew could access the field. The walkway was stabilized earlier this year though is still off limits to students, with a staircase built to provide emergency exit from the building to the football field. But the report notes it will likely not remain stable until a new school is built.
The school board has voted to consolidate grades 9-12 at Meyers and Coughlin in a new building, most likely in Plains Township, where recent boring tests were done. The board is awaiting a review of test results from the state Department of Environmental Protection. The site is expected to require special foundation preparations, and DEP will likely determine what type of work will be required.
Costello plans to hold the town hall meetings Aug. 28 at GAR, Aug. 29 at Meyers, and Aug. 30 at Coughlin. All three will begin at 6 p.m. and are expected to last about an hour. He hopes to have a short tour of the buildings after the meetings.
While GAR is not part of the consolidation plan — a fact that has evoked public criticism contending the students there are being neglected — a limited structural study is being conducted there, including removal of facade masonry to get a look at underlying brick and steel work.
The latest written update on that study, being conducted by Masonry Preservation Services, found “back-up wall assembly — brick masonry behind the facade — deteriorating due to water infiltration, cracked stone work over a window and spalling of concrete on the roof parapet.