Last updated: July 11. 2014 1:31PM - 842 Views

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Would it be a good idea to …

… build a new Wilkes-Barre high school in a spot where compatible things – a public park, a library or even a day care center – could be located next to it?

Create a campus that’s appealing and safe. Moreover, make it a place that satisfies the needs of students, teachers and parents beyond the traditional school day – a site that serves as a community hub and in which people can take pride.

A small park adjacent to the school, for instance, could supply walking trails and ponds for relaxation and restoration, as well as green space for environmental study and science experiments. Perhaps there’d be room for a student-grown vegetable garden, too.

A daycare center might be a boon for school employees with young children, making pickups and drop-offs especially convenient.

This summer, the Wilkes-Barre Area School Board intends to explore its options for repairing and renovating the district’s three aging high schools. As students were dismissed in June, two of those high schools were ringed with barriers such as plastic fencing and scaffolding because of concerns about crumbling facades.

How classes might be affected in the fall, if at all, remains to be seen.

The board, which is commissioning a feasibility study, expects to not only ponder in the months ahead what can be done with existing schools, but also consider new construction at an as-yet undermined site. Five potential locations have been publicly identified.

Now’s an ideal time, it seems, to propose that district officials think of this project as more than a school upgrade. Consider it a community-enhancement project. Create a destination for families and others, not simply a concrete building where yellow buses stop twice a day.

We don’t know if the school board’s members have discussed, or even dreamed, these sorts of notions. We want to know what you think.

Does it make sense to co-locate a new school near a park? A new city library, providing after-school homework help and a supervised hangout? A senior center, allowing for cross-generational interaction? A daycare?

All of the above?

Something else?

Perhaps the most ideal school site of the five identified by the board so far – the former Valley Crest Nursing Home property in Plains Township – could soon be off the market, as it appears Luzerne County finally has succeeded in soliciting bids for the 62-acre plot. Too bad, as the hilltop parcel would have allowed room for school expansion and multiple other uses. Easy highway access for traveling sports teams, too.

A second site – in Bear Creek Township – strikes us as potentially too risky: Does anyone really want more motorists, including bus drivers and teen drivers, scaling state Route 115 toward Seven Tubs Natural Area on a foggy, rainy morning? Or in a snowstorm?

At this point, the district isn’t locked into any course of action. Let’s hope the board’s members remain open to all suggestions, including one made recently via a guest commentary printed in The Times Leader. Gerald E. Cross, of the Pennsylvania Economy League’s Central Division in Wilkes-Barre, proposed the district partner with a private entity on a new building, then lease the space. One of the area’s colleges would be a logical choice for collaboration, he wrote.

Is it good thinking to pair a Wilkes-Barre high school, in some shape or manner, with another institution or amenity? Give us your feedback by sending a letter to the editor or by posting comments to this editorial at timesleader.com or facebook.com/timesleader.

Likewise, share your ideas for improving the community and making area residents’ lives better. Maybe we’ll spotlight your suggestions in a future editorial and ask readers, “Would it be a good idea to …”

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