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The state is threatening to withhold funds again from the Lackawanna School District for its failure to build a new school to comply with handicapped accessibility requirements.

School Board members reached Sunday night said they do not know how the board might address this latest crisis.

"I don't know what the School Board will do about it," said President Kevin Reed. "We are in violation of a 1994 agreement under the Americans With Disabilities Act. . . . We agreed to build a new school. We have failed to do that as a board."

Reed said he does not plan on calling a special meeting because he has fought for a new school for more than two years.

"I don't see I can do much more to support a school," he said. "It may be imminent that we lose our state and federal funds, but it's not going to be my fault."

Trustee Elaine Mandy said the board has had no discussion since receiving the letter last week. Trustee John Makeyenko said he would try to convene a meeting on the matter.

In a letter sent to Reed last week, Gabriel Coppola of the state Education Department's Office for Special Education Services said he will recommend the state consider withholding the district's federal funds until the board proves it is moving on the corrective action plan it agreed to two years ago.

The board decided two years ago to build a new elementary school instead of renovating the aging Franklin School to make it accessible to the disabled.

The board must submit documentation verifying it is taking appropriate action on the plan or submit a renovation plan for the Franklin School, Coppola wrote.

"In either case, precise time lines for each step in the chosen process must be included," he wrote.

Coppola noted in the letter that on May 27, 1994, the state withheld about $100,000 in federal funds and $650,000 in private excess cost payments for non-compliance with special-education requirements.

The funds were released when the state was satisfied with the district's corrective action plan.

"To this date, the component of the agreed-upon (corrective action plans) dealing with accessibility which allowed your funds to be released has not been fully implemented," Coppola wrote.

Coppola also told Reed he did not receive a response to an August letter to the district offering to let it submit an alternative plan on Franklin School.

Board members point the finger at each other in the district's failure to comply. Trustees Kenneth Motyka and Edward Piotrowski are holding up the new school and last month voted against an environmental impact study, a necessary step before the school is built, charged Makeyenko.

Motyka said they want the taxpayers to make the choice.

"They say we aren't moving on this new school. We have been divided on it. We have never said we did not want to build a new school," Motyka said. "There has never been anyone on this board who has said we won't build a school, myself included, and I'm the guy who's been holding it up because I believe the voters should have a choice on this."

"We would never have received this letter if we had done what we were supposed to do," Makeyenko said.

He contends the environmental impact study must be approved before a public vote could be taken.

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