Former School Vibrates With The Sounds Of Life
May 29, 1986|by ROBERT FLEXER, The Morning Call
From the outside, the large two-story building looks like a prime candidate for a fate that many former schools have seen. First looks can be deceiving, however, as the inside of the building shows that many people are still using the 63-year-old structure.Unlike several other old schools in the area, the former Coaldale High School shows no signs of either deteriorating or being destroyed. Credit for keeping the school in its present condition falls squarely on the shoulders of Coaldale High School Complex Inc.
The non-profit organization, commissioned by Coaldale Borough Council, took over the building in 1972 and is continuing to make improvements. Patricia Stahler, the group's treasurer, said the building serves as home for such programs as aerobics classes and the Panther Valley headquarters of the Carbon County Head Start Program.
For several of the group members, the thought of their school being destroyed or standing idle has led them to take an active role in making certain that the structure continues to be used. "You see schools being knocked down, but we feel we have accomplished something here," said Stahler.
Jean Perchik, another group member, attended classes in the building in 1964. She would have graduated from the school a year later had it not been closed when four school districts combined to form the Panther Valley School District.
"I know these people and I get along with them," said Perchik. I have a special feeling for the school."
After the school closed in 1964, it stood idle for eight years until the combined school district offered to sell it to the borough for $1. The offer was accepted and the commission was born.
Its first action was to repair a failing roof. The project cost about $15,000 and the money was obtained through donations, paper drives and bingo along with other activities, according to Stahler.
Since that time, the small but dedicated group has fought hard to keep the building open. Much of their time has been spent in using available resources to replace items in the building. "It's been hard work because we've done it voluntarily," said Stahler, who noted that window panes have been replaced by Ronald Plocinik, the group's president, who has taken windows from frames instead of purchasing new ones.
Stahler, Plocinik and William Pisko recently joined forces to paint the first floor of the large building. Stahler said it took the group 1 1/2 months to finish the project while working three days a week.
The aerobics group and officials of the Head Start program are glad that the group members have sacrificed their time to improve the building.
Priscilla Hosak of Tamaqua, who has conducted aerobics classes in the building for six years, said she has tried other facilities that were not as good as what the school offers. Hosak once held classes in the complex six times a week.
The building is light, airy and wide open," she said. "We tried other places, but they just didn't work out."
Bernette Frantz, the director of the Head Start program for children ages 3 to 5 from low income families, said the school is the best location for the program in the Panther Valley area. The program had been located in the former Nesquehoning High School before moving to its present site six years ago. The school now holds the program's administrative offices.
The school commission has made many improvements to the building in addition to the roof, including improvements to the heating system and filling the auditorium with dirt and concrete to provide a meeting place for the Coaldale Senior Citizens.
The building also serves as home for basketball groups, twirling contests, class reunions and several other activities.
Although Stahler has many memories from the old school, one sticks out in her memory for the problems it caused. Before the roof was repaired, the gym was like a swimming pool and group members were forced to sweep water from the basketball court into hallways, she said.
Other active members include Diane Pennissi, Daniel Rickert, Delores Lawson, Peggy Poli, Anna Bell and Nicholas Pantella.