Save Our Schools hoping referendum ballot will reverse high school consolidation plan

WILKES-BARRE (WOLF) -- A local group against the consolidation of two Wilkes-Barre high schools is trying a new strategy to get the district to re-think its plans.

They want the people to decide on Election Day.

Save Our Schools is circulating petitions throughout the community.

In this case, the amount of signatures has no bearing on if that question makes it onto the ballot.

But they're hoping it pressures the board to be more transparent about the cost -- which could trigger a referendum.

This group of people mingling at Rodano's on Public Square in Wilkes-Barre has one thing in common.

They want the district's high schools to stay in their respective neighborhoods.

"77% of our students are in poverty and that type of a student does better in a small neighborhood school where the parents can participate," Save Our Schools president Richard Holodick said.

Back in March, the Wilkes-Barre school board approved plans to purchase land in Plains Township for a new, consolidated high school.

As a result, students from Meyers and Coughlin High Schools would merge at the new location, while G.A.R. Memorial would stay as is.

The activist group Save Our Schools is against that idea, and tonight it held an information session about its new strategy to make the board re-think its decision.

Its circulated about 50 of these petitions in the community so far, asking the board to put the issue to a public vote on a referendum ballot.

"Well the referendum in this case is based on basically a mathematical formula. It isn't when people see on the news when you get a certain amount of signatures and force one. Instead this is a mathematical formula based on the amount of students per price. Its not as simple as basic division, but it is looking at the amount of students that'll be in the school, basically the price per student," Joseph Borland, counsel for Save Our Schools, said.

If that number exceed a certain amount, it goes to referendum.

Construction costs for the new school are estimated between $101 and $118 million.

"its our belief they're very close to it and there are certain parts to the building process that aren't included in that cost estimate. Getting our hands on exactly what the cost of each level will be we'll have a better idea of what exactly will trigger the referendum," Borland said.

But in the meantime, they're hoping those signed petitions will show the school board they're not giving up on the fight.

"This petition isn't necessarily about forcing a hand as much as it is acknowledging the situation they're in. So they have to go back and look at their numbers to see whether this triggers the referendum or not, which we believe it does," Borland said.

Save Our Schools plans to bring those signed petitions to a school board meeting in July.

The deadline for getting that referendum on the ballot is in August.

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