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OPINION: Saying goodbye to a high school

Published on

George Mathewson

Work crews will arrive any day now and begin knocking down the vacant high school building on East Street, if they haven’t already.

The St. Clair Catholic District School Board awarded a contract last week to demolish the former St. Patrick’s and clear the debris as soon as possible. By May it will be gone.

The school is much more than bricks and terrazzo floors, of course, especially to the thousands of students who spent formative years at St. Pat’s, and the former Central Collegiate before it.

As residents drive on East Street in coming weeks the bulldozers are bound to spark personal memories, good and bad, of those crisp fall football games and sweaty June exams, of hormones and smoky cars, or maybe report cards and prom parties – when they still had such things.

Central Collegiate Institute opened in 1955 when Sarnia was drunk on growth. Five hundred new homes were built that year, another 600 lots approved and Indian Road was paved.

Numerous restaurants, gas stations and two new churches opened as 1,447 more people arrived, swelling the population to 41,493.

As the first cohort of students settled in at Central that September educators were already planning another secondary school to alleviate overcrowding.

Central cost $700,00 to build including all the equipment, desks and framed portraits of Queen Elizabeth II.

Knocking it down will cost $450,000.

The future of its outdoor athletic track has been in limbo since the board decided to close St. Pat’s in 2014 and put the property on the market.

Bluewater Health, which wants the land for hospital parking, asked Sarnia to help it acquire the site and City Hall got involved because it wants to protect the track.

In October, Sarnia withdrew its expression of interest on the understanding the hospital, once it acquires the land, would permit two local track clubs to continue operating the athletic facility.

A memorandum from that time stated the agreement would give the two clubs exclusive license to use and operate the facility for the next 20 years.

Last week, the board and hospital said they are close to finalizing a land sale agreement and are “optimistic” an announcement isn’t far off.

In the release, hospital vice president Mike Lapaine said the sale will be a “win-win” for the community but provided few details.

“Our ownership of this property is vital to the future of Bluewater Health and will also secure the agreements we currently have in place with community organizations to preserve track for the next several years,” he said.








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