Guest Column: There’s a way forward for the old Foster High School on the west end of town

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By William E. Baylis


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Recently, the federal election campaign in Windsor West highlighted the importance of the old Forster High School building to the west end of the city and Sandwich.

Liberal candidate Sandra Pupatello’s promises to rejuvenate the West End and turn Forster into a hub for community-serving agencies were laudable, but some details suggested a 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 expanded several times over the years, finally becoming a secondary school in 1954.

The school was known for its marching band, strong academics, teaching auto mechanics, and eventually, in later years, English as a second language.


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It’s a large, basically well-built facility that at one time housed as many as 1,400 students in the late 1970s, and shortly thereafter included the Sandwich Community Health Center. It has approximately 150,000 square feet of space.

By the time the high school closed in 2014, enrollment had dropped to around 500. The Greater Essex County School Board sold it to the Ambassador Bridge Company in late 2015.

Several non-profit community organizations, including Canada South Science City and Valiants (Girls) Basketball, accepted invitations from the bridge company to rent space in the building.

However, repairs were needed, especially to the gym’s ceiling and floor.

A formal lease agreement was never reached, but the bridge company continued to cover utilities and taxes, in addition to carrying out a series of repairs that allowed Valiants and Science City to operate for a couple of seasons.


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There were a couple of robberies and vandalism during that time. To limit the damage, the bridge company covered some windows, as well as installing and monitoring video cameras.

The result has not been pretty, but despite comments to the contrary, it has managed to prevent vandals from settling there.

After the bridge company took steps to clear and close Forster in April 2020, Windsor-West MP Brian Masse, along with driving MP Lisa Gretzky and Coun. Fabio Costante, who represents the neighborhood, participated in a conference call with Science City and Bridge Company President Dan Stamper to try to keep Forster open to community service.

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


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Science City could then share the space with other nonprofits and seek funds to match the appraised value of the donation such as the launch of a major funding drive 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 Science City feasibility study was conducted by NuFusion Partners of Windsor to estimate future operational costs and repairs.

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

Stay tuned. The story is not over yet.

Thanks to the generosity of the Ambassador Bridge Company, as well as the support of Brian Masse and others, the prospects not only seem 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 science centers like ours, whose mission is to promote understanding and appreciation of science.

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


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