A chorus of the E.L. Meyers High School alma mater ended the night after a special meeting focused on the possibility of closing the school.
The Wilkes-Barre area school council held the meeting to reveal and discuss the findings of a report analyzing the effects of moving the 1000 current Meyers students to the other area schools, GAR, Coughlin and Solomon/Plains.
Current students, alumni, parents and local politicians nearly filled the Coughlin High School auditorium to capacity, speaking out on this possibility of closing Meyers. They brought up concerns that a deserted Meyers High School building would become another Wilkes-Barre eyesore.
“I hope it doesn’t become another Hotel Sterling,” Wilkes-Barre councilman George Brown said.
Superintendent Jeff Namey said the idea of closing Meyers evolved from discussion on more efficient budgets, which led to the study of consequences of moving Meyer’s students from the building.
Namey said the closure would be an attempt to cope with a constantly shrinking budget from cuts to the Pennsylvania Department of Education. He said the goal would be to lessen the burden on taxpayers and benefit students at the same time.
“There are some positives, there are a lot of negatives, and most importantly, there are a lot of unknowns,” Namey said.
Some of the unknowns include the boundary separation on which school students would be redistributed to, and classroom space in the other schools. Supervisor of Curriculum Andrew Kuhl said all the rooms in the remaining three schools are already assigned.
Kuhl said the study estimated that, with the addition of Meyers students, the class size at the area high schools would average in the high 20’s to low 30’s, which the crowd responded to with gasps.
“We are fully aware that (those numbers) are excessive,” Kuhl said.
Namey reiterated that these class sizes would be unacceptable, saying he understands the importance of a good student to teacher ratio.
“We’re very much aware that 30, 32, 33 in a classroom is outrageous, and that is something that we would not do,” Namey said.
After the results of the report were released, the meeting turned into a forum of praise toward the school’s value and protest toward its elimination.
Luzerne County Judge William Amesbury spoke as a Meyers alumni on the school’s community and history.
“Meyers is not simply a building located on Carey Avenue, but it is part of the substance and soul and the fiber of those who have walked through its halls,” Amesbury said.
Josh Schiowitz, an 8th grader, said it would be much more efficient to hire more competent and capable janitors and groundskeepers to repair maintain the building than relocating students.
Michael O’Donnell, an area attorney and “proud” 2001 Meyers graduate, wanted to know why studies aren’t being done on closing the other schools. He held up a thick book of laws that outline Pennsylvania codes for school closures or district reorganization, saying the many Meyers graduates in law enforce those laws.
“Rest assured that the lawyers of the Wilkes-Barre Area School District and the families they support will be holding you to the letter of the laws in this book,” O’Donnell said.
Along with pride for the school, speakers reflected many questions they had on the possibility of a closure. How would the education of students be effected? Would the building end up boarded up and broken? Would there be issues of increased crime at the other schools? Will there actually be a savings through the closure?
For now, those questions remain unanswered.