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Letters, week of March 24

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Bridge toll increase outrageous

Sir: Many people are upset about the toll at the Blue Water Bridge increasing to $4 Canadian on April 1.

I consider this fare increase to be an opportunistic cash grab by the Federal Bridge Corporation, which tries to justify it for what are surely temporary currency and economic problems. Very likely, this fare increase will not be temporary.

The very worst-case calculation of the Canadian dollar’s decline would be from $1.0695 US (Nov 2/07) to

$.6865 US (Jan 19/16). That represents a 35.8% decrease in value.

However, on a year-to-year basis, the decline has been only 3.6%. (March 13/15 to March 14/16)

Furthermore, it’s claimed bridge traffic has declined from 3.8 million to 3.6 million vehicles in the last fiscal year. That represents a 5% decrease.

Yet the Federal Bridge Corporation has increased the most economical fare to cross the border by a whopping 60%! (A current token costs $2.50, and after the token phase-out the least expensive fare will be $4.)

That is 30 times the current Canadian inflation rate! (2.0% as of Jan/16 – Stats Canada)

How does the FBC get away with this?

Ken Dawson

Sarnia


 

St. Clair should be saved

Sir: Sarnia’s south end has problems, no doubt. But keeping SCITS high school open won’t solve them.

It is up to the school board to provide enough courses for a good education so our students can graduate and build a sturdy future. Students won’t save businesses in the area by buying a pizza slice during breaks.

It is not up to the board to keep investing in an old building that doesn’t serve its purpose any longer, just because the City of Sarnia has neglected Mitton Village and the south end.

It’s a fact that asbestos at SCITS is still a big concern. Doing renovations without disrupting the asbestos isn’t possible, not to mention the level of asbestos that will show up in reports on annual inspections.

It’s a fact that the grey water return is a big problem. The sewer didn’t flood just once.

It’s a fact that SCITS has less teachable spaces (classrooms). Where are you going to accommodate all students?

St. Clair has capacity for 150 students more than SCITS. It also has more parking.

SCITS can’t place portables on its already small property. It would make more sense to add a new up-to-date auditorium at the St. Clair location, not adjacent to downtown auditoriums.

Don’t forget the great horticulture program at St. Clair, better science labs, its two large soccer fields, and, yes, there are lots of places where St Clair students get lunch.

St Clair has more technology programs and the woodworking and manufacturing courses will be adopted when both schools merge.

More courses will be made available to the students when the schools consolidate. Isn’t that what will benefit our students? Their education, good and affordable, that’s what this is all about, not history or personal attachment to a building.

And the SCITS building could serve the community in so many other ways.

Nathalie de Rechter

Sarnia


 

Let’s support the Sting

Sir: After approximately 20 years of so-so hockey, with new owners, management and coaches all taking a new approach to our Major Junior A team’s direction, we have finally got a team that is competitive and a pleasure to watch and support.

Around the trade deadline back in January, I and many others thought management might have traded away the farm.

Actually, they brought in a new nucleus of talented players to augment the talent we had, then traded an experienced player and wound up retrieving draft picks back.

Since January, the team is usually always in the game and it is within sight of winning the conference title.

It’s time to support this team, owners and staff. Won’t be long till they are doing this all over again for another season.

The OHL is one of the best leagues from which to jump to the NHL, which means we lose a lot of talent too soon as they move on.

Thanks to all the above for a great year in hockey in this town.  And best of luck to our Sarnia Sting in their playoff run.

Bill Douglas

Sarnia


 

SCITS’ strong roots set it apart

Sir: Closing SCITS may seem like a fiscally responsible idea, but what’s the price of the soul of a community? Not just a community of the present, but a community with such a wealthy past.

Stand and sing to S.C.I.T.S.,

Sing your praises; it deserves no less;

And tell of days spent in those halls of fame, where we learned to work and play the game…

My memories of SCITS echo the memories of many who have already voiced their experiences. They are the echoes of the memories my parents had at SCITS long before me. I wore SCITS blue competing in many sports; I proudly shared the stage with many brilliant performers in the SCITS Revue; I snuck into the tunnels with friends to see what lie beneath; I belted out the school song at football games; I took pride in the legacy that is SCITS.

I realize that I’m just one voice in the crowd – but that’s the beauty of the SCITS family: we are a huge crowd of loud, enthusiastic voices.

Shutting down SCITS doesn’t just close a school, it shuts down the opportunity for a future community to join this rich legacy.

It sounds cliché, but SCITS truly is a school like no other. It has a soul and a heartbeat. In a world where everything is new and fresh, SCITS has strong roots that sets it apart. Its branches extend into the community surrounding it to give it life.

I implore you, in the midst of our throwaway culture, please help remind people that there really are some things worth saving.

…onward, forward, striving to the end, Tho’ the road be long;

So we’ll work with a will,

For our knowledge and skill,

At the S.C.I.T.S.!

Natalie (Armstrong) Frisk, ’03

Forever Blue

Sarnia


 

Some important facts about SCITS

Sir: I would like to present some facts that deal with student and community impacts should the school board decide to close SCITS.

SCITS is the only school within the Lambton Kent District School Board that has a priority school initiative designation, which will be lost if it closes. The PSI designation is important because it allows community groups to use SCITS’ facilities and amenities at no cost, or minimal cost.

There are currently over 20 groups using SCITS for over 1,700 hours this school year, including the Sarnia police department and Sarnia wrestling club. The board received $48,287 from the Ministry of Education because of this.

The PSI designation was created by the ministry to support the Poverty Reduction Strategy, and helps students and families in high-priority neighbourhoods benefit from expanded access to programs and services.

SCITS has the highest number of scholarships and bursaries in the Lambton-Kent board, 95. Many are funded through SCITS alumni and will be lost if it is closed. SCITS also awards the highest in total monetary value in scholarships, at over $85,000.

By comparison St. Clair has 49 awards valued at just under $50,000.

The SCITS auditorium is a huge asset. Each year the school puts on a professional-scale production called the SCITS Revue. It is held over three nights in the 850-seat auditorium and continually sells out. Ticket sales this year, based on a $10 presale ticket price over three nights, would be $25,000.

There are also many other sources of revenue generated by SCITS alumni. The 75th anniversary reunion proceeds paid for 300 seats to be refurbished in the auditorium.. The Catherine Wilson Foundation alone invests tens of thousands of dollars annually into SCITS.

The 2015/16 Education Funding: A Guide to Student Needs, offers this about the School Operations and Renewal Grant. It states:

“This grant supports the cost of operating, maintaining and repairing school facilities. Under the formula, funding is adjusted for boards that have older schools with unique features such as wide hallways, large shop spaces and auditorium spaces.”

Which school does this describe?

Jennifer George

Sarnia


 

St. Clair is the school to keep

Sir: The level of emotion is getting extreme about the amalgamation of St. Clair and SCITS.

How do the students of one school welcome students from the other?

How do we expect them to team up and join as one big happy family? A decision on this consolidation can’t be postponed much longer.

If one school has to close and all students have to move to the other one, there will be a winner and a loser, and that will be stressful and emotional.

Students will bleed either blue or purple. It is the board’s task not only to provide a proper education, courses and good equipment, but also to assure a healthy mental environment. Each individual student should be treated with respect, placed on a pedestal and made to feel welcome.

The logos, colours and mascots should be changed before the semester starts, when team building is needed. Let both schools throw in their creativity to combine their colours. The Bombers and Colts can become one positive community.

This whole situation is tough on the students and their families. I hope there will be a fair decision. I hope that a decision will be made based on the true facts and costs. I hope that a decision will be made with common sense instead of emotions.

Both schools have a history, and one is longer than the other. But history is the past. It is up to us to make a new history for the generations ahead.

Give the present students a chance for the best education, at the location that’s financial doable and provides what students need to succeed.

It is a fact that the St Clair building has less history, but it provides much better educational opportunities for this generation of high school students, and for the next one.

Renata Kaijser

Sarnia


 

Urban blight a growing threat to city

Sir: I am writing in response to the threatened closing of SCITS in Sarnia. I feel the school board has already made up its mind to close this historic school.

They don’t seem to have any regard what another empty, boarded-up building will do to the south end. With the closing of the old Sarnia General Hospital, Devine Street School and St. Patrick’s High School, to name a few of the deteriorating buildings, the south end is looking very depressed.

All the government cares about is the bottom line. They don’t tear these buildings down, they just board them up and walk away.  Well, I have news for them. You can’t just walk away.

What you leave behind is called blight. I lived in Detroit for many years, and still work there. I see the terrible effects of blight several times a week.

Detroit didn’t think it’s neighbourhoods mattered either, and now 40,000 homes and other structures are condemned and must be demolished.

I have nothing against St Clair Secondary, but feel it would be more cost effective to tear it down than SCITS.

Blight is everyone’s problem because, like a cancer, if left unchecked it can and will spread. It spread in Detroit and it will spread here too, until every neighbourhood is infected.

Make no mistake; blight is already here and knocking at our door.  What we do now will affect us for many years down the road.

Lynda Laidler

Sarnia


 

Board doing what’s best for its students

Sir: I am a parent of four children within the Lambton Kent District School Board.  I fully support amalgamation of SCITS and St. Clair Secondary at the St. Clair site.

I strongly feel that the board’s directive is to provide the best quality of education possible within the financial means provided by the province.

The board’s 22,000 students are not in a position to subsidize the skyrocketing costs of operating SCITS. Students should not be penalized for the city’s neglect in the southwest part of this city.

The decline in population in that area is not a result of the school closures, but school closures are a result of neglect by the city council and our mayor, and that’s rightfully where all this hostility should be directed.

Is the board’s Accommodation Review Committee expected to put out-of-control hydro costs, higher repair costs and other expenses needed to operate SCITS ahead of programs and technology for students?

What is more important, my children’s access to programs and tech that will allow them to be successful in their future, or a beautiful historic building with a pool that’s used at most 12 hours a semester, a gym that costs more to operate than the revenue it generates, and an auditorium used for a once-a-year show?

If students are to lose programs because of SCITS’ higher operating costs, I think the answer is clear. It is also not the school boards first responsibility to keep businesses viable; that’s the city’s job.

What is most important is my children’s future and their ability to access the same programs and tech that other high schools offer. The school board has a priority to meet those needs first and foremost.

It should be the city’s responsibility to ensure residential and commercial areas remain viable, free from the drugs, crime and decay that have driven residents out of that area for decades, and to bring jobs to this community to keep residents from leaving.

Cori Landon

Sarnia


 

Public needs info in emergencies

Sir: Re: the story, “Does the new emergency warning system go far enough to warn the public?”

The radio newsroom is where people automatically turn to hear about a situation happening in the surrounding industries.

Yes, a Code 8 is right now. But one shouldn’t play the “expert forecaster” for a time 15 minutes from now. Thirty-nine years in refineries will teach you this.

The story prompted me to express my opinion on what I consider to be a taking away of public freedoms of information.

The OPP, some city departments, and maybe some fire departments, are consumed with the need to prevent people from hearing their calls or sirens. They have, or can have, private frequencies to transmit very sensitive or criminal situations.

When they are out on calls in a terrible snowstorm and road conditions are drastic, I respect and applaud them for being out there. But I want to be able to hear what the situation is, if a certain model of car is off in a ditch, or a tanker is jackknifed across the road. We all have families, after all.

We, the public, pay them well to work in their chosen profession, and the old adage “we put our lives on the line for you” may need a bit of a glamour reduction.

They are much needed presence, but I doubt their job requires another reduction in public freedoms.

Robert Neal

Courtright

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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