The Bethlehem Planning Commission gave final approval Thursday to a plan to replace Broughal Middle School with a $43 million environmentally friendly school building, including athletic fields and an underground parking garage.
The commission heard, but ultimately decided against, three residents who pleaded to preserve the 91-year-old building that once served as South Bethlehem High School. Once the new building is completed, the school district intends to demolish Broughal, at 125 W. Packer Ave., and develop athletic fields in its place.
''To take a historic building and destroy it, in this town, is tantamount to treason,'' said Mary Pongracz, a South Side resident and activist. Also opposing the demolition were activists William Scheirer and Dana Grubb, a former city employee.
Scheirer held out the possibility that the building could be renovated and converted into an elementary school. He said the building is eligible for placement on the National Register of Historic Places and urged the commission to delay demolition approval, even if new building plans are approved. Demolition, Scheirer said, is at least two years away.
James Broughal, a city attorney working on behalf of the school district, argued against that proposal. The Bethlehem Area School Board has already weighed and rejected the idea of historic preservation and the state Department of Education would not look kindly on the idea of two schools at the same site, he said.