Guest column: There is way forward for former Foster Secondary School on city’s west end

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By William E. Baylis


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Recently, the federal election campaign in the riding of Windsor West highlighted the importance of the former Forster Secondary School building to city’s west end and Sandwich.

Promises by Liberal candidate Sandra Pupatello to rejuvenate the west end and turn Forster into a hub of agencies serving the community were laudable, but a few details suggested some misunderstanding of the current situation.

I would like to add some useful context to the discussion.

Since its founding as Byng elementary school in 1922, the school has been expanded several times over the years, eventually becoming a high school in 1954.

The school was well known for its musical band, strong academics, teaching of automotive mechanics and eventually in later years English as a second language.


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It is a large, basically well-built facility that at one time housed up to 1,400 students in the late 1970s, then soon after included the Sandwich Community Health Centre. It features roughly 150,000 sq. ft. of space.

At the time of the high school’s closing in 2014, enrolment had declined to about 500. It was sold by the Greater Essex County School Board to the Ambassador Bridge company at the end of 2015.

Several not-for-profit community organizations, including Canada South Science City and the Valiants (Girls) Basketball, accepted invitations from the bridge company to rent space in the building.

However, repairs were needed, especially to the roof and gymnasium floor.

No formal leasing agreements were ever concluded, but the bridge company continued to cover utilities and taxes, plus undertook a number of repairs which allowed both the Valiants and Science City to operate for a couple of seasons.


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There were a couple of break-ins and some vandalism during that time. In order to limit damage, the bridge company boarded up some windows, plus installed and monitored video cameras.

The result has not been pretty, but in spite of comments to the contrary, it has succeeded in keeping vandals from making a home there.

After the bridge company took steps to clear and close Forster in April 2020, Windsor-West MP Brian Masse, together with the riding’s MPP Lisa Gretzky and Coun. Fabio Costante, who represents the neighbourhood, participated in a conference call with Science City and the bridge company’s President Dan Stamper to try to keep Forster open in service of the community.

During the call, Stamper confirmed the bridge company was willing in principle to donate the Forster building to Science City for a tax receipt.


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Science City could then share the space with other non-profits and seek funding to match the assessed value of the donation as the launch of a major campaign for funding for repairs and renovations.

As is often the case, the devil is in the details.

With the help of a grant from the Windsor-Essex Community Foundation, a feasibility study by Science City conducted by NuFusion Partners of Windsor was undertaken to estimate future operational costs and repairs.

This project was part of the Investment Readiness Program funded by the Government of Canada. The final report of the study is now largely complete in spite of delays caused by COVID-19 lockdowns.

Stay tuned. The story is not yet finished.

Thanks to the generosity of the Ambassador Bridge company, plus support by Brian Masse and others, the prospects appear not only feasible, but even bright and exciting.

While both COVID-19 and climate change have disrupted progress around the world, they also underscore the importance of science — and of science centres like ours whose mission is to advance the understanding and appreciation of science.

William E. Baylis is president of Canada South Science City.


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