Proposed Wellington Block revitalization: Over-the-top excitement or cause for concern?


city_scope_logo-cmykWhile one St. Thomas councillor expressed concern over further investment in the city-owned Wellington Block, an architect working on the social services and housing campus at 230 Talbot Street is “over-the-top excited” about the possibilities inside the now-vacant structure.
That’s according to city manager Wendell Graves, who updated council on the status of the former Wellington Public School at the April 15 reference committee meeting.
And, one of those possibilities is converting each classroom into a residential unit, with the wainscotting and chalkboards in place so that some of them could be live/work spaces.
Graves envisions a total of 19 units of various sizes on the three floors, with each having its own heating/air conditioning system.
Not all units would be of the geared-to-income variety, with a number of them to be market driven. Continue reading

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Will Ontario’s new minimum wage result in maximum economic stress for school bus operators?


city_scope_logo-cmykAs debate swirls around the province’s decision to raise the minimum wage in stages, beginning Jan. 1 of next year, the Kathleen Wynne government has not taken into account the impact on school bus operators, most notably small, independent firms that have safely transported students back and forth to classes for decades.
The Ontario School Bus Association (OSBA) estimates nearly one million Ontario families rely on school buses to get their children to school. The Wynne government’s push to hike the minimum wage could threaten the availability of bus service in the coming year. Continue reading

A hot housing market? Look no further than council’s agenda.


city_scope_logo-cmykIn a compelling presentation last month to Thames Valley District School Board trustees, St. Thomas developer Doug Tarry stressed “it would be really dumb to close New Sarum (public school) because you are going to wipe out empty seats at Mitchell Hepburn.”
With the number of new homes coming online, Tarry insisted both schools will be needed. He noted 92 lots in his newest St. Thomas subdivision sold out within four days of release.
Well you have to look no further than Monday’s council agenda to ascertain Tarry was not stretching the truth.
The St. Thomas housing market is on fire and school board trustees should have paid heed to his warning.
Here’s a rundown on applications before council June 19.
Springwater Developments is proposing five buildings, each containing four townhouse units and two lots for semi-detached dwellings to be located on Arbor Trail in the Orchard Park South Development Area.
Shawside Development Ltd., is proposing to develop 59 lots for single detached dwellings and 39 multiple-attached or detached dwelling units with part of another block of land set aside for future development. This is to be located on Old Course Road.
Owner Russell Higgins plans to develop 55 lots for single-detached dwellings on the former Gloin Farm property adjacent to the Shawside Development Area.
And Tarry is seeking permission to proceed with Phase 1 of his Millers Pond Subdivision on the former Parish Farm, west of Fairview Road. This would entail 52 lots for single-detached dwellings. This is in addition to a total of 255 dwelling units proposed for the Harvest Run Block Plan on the former Axford Farm, east of Centennial Road.
Of course the London-based school board dismissed all presentations from a bevy of concerned parents, students, municipal and business leaders and will march ahead with its plan to close schools in Sparta, New Sarum, South Dorchester and Springfield. Sparta would be the first to close and then be re-purposed as a second French Immersion school in Elgin.
Again we refer to the presentation that evening from John Hueston, president of the Aylmer Express newspaper, who opened with the Mark Twain quote, “In the first place, God made idiots. This was just for practice. Then he made school boards.” Continue reading

STEAM Centre and TVDSB roll out unique partnership in St. Thomas aimed at Gr. 10 students


The irony is not lost on STEAM Education Centre board member Andrew Gunn.
Standing inside a heritage building, a former elementary school, now re-purposed as a 21st century progressive education centre.
“Here we are bringing 3D printers and robotics and all sorts of new technologies for learning and design all here in a building from 1898,” enthused Gunn, trustee of the Dorothy Palmer Estate which contributed $638,000 to help launch the alternative education project.

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For the Professor, latest accessibility report would just be more of the same


city_scope_logo-cmykWhile he had become accustomed to findings similar to those contained in a report to council Monday, the Professor would be far from pleased with the latest report card.
Prior to his death in February, Ed McLachlan spent years as a member of the St. Thomas Municipal Accessibility Advisory Committee and filed many reports to council  on accessibility issues in all city-owned facilities.
Lesley Buchanan is now chair of the committee and the annual site audit is on the agenda for all to see.
Here is a sampling of the ongoing barriers the handicapped face.

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A temporary fix for a long-term headache


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Call it the Great Divide — the emotional rift at Pierre Elliott Trudeau French Immersion School that was the byproduct of attempts to reach a consensus to ease severe overcrowding at the former Homedale Senior Elementary School.
And the unanimous decision this past Tuesday to proceed with the Thames Valley District School Board’s preferred option of busing students to Port Stanley will not quickly heal the wound.
Referred to as Option 1, the plan entails moving French Immersion and Extended French students in Grades 7 and 8 to Port Stanley Public School, beginning in September.
It was the recommendation of senior TVDSB administrators and will transform Pierre Elliott Trudeau school into a senior kindergarten to Grade 6 facility  for the time being.
In a discussion Thursday with Kevin Bushell, TVDSB manager of facility services, he explained the goal is to keep a cohort of students together.
By that, Bushell stressed the importance of “keeping the Grade 7 and 8’s together and not splitting them between two schools . . .  And we couldn’t get a large number for kindergarten to Grade 8 for French Immersion in Port Stanley so we would have small class sizes, split grades and small cohorts of students. Continue reading

Over-capacity and under-used, aye there’s the rub


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A special meeting of council on Tuesday which included invited officials from the Thames Valley District School Board did little to heal the great divide in the Pierre Elliott Trudeau French Immersion School community.

In fact, if anything, the rift has widened.

The tone was established early when manager of facility services Kevin Bushell admitted the board “mis-read the community” when dealing with overcrowding at the French Immersion school.

He then announced — and which was confirmed later that evening at the scheduled board meeting in London — an area attendance review would be undertaken beginning in the fall to be completed before the end of the year.

So, there will be no busing of senior students from the school to Port Stanley Public School to deal with severe over-crowding at the former Homedale Senior Elementary School. Continue reading