St. Barths Online

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Jul 11, 2002

Summer vacation is for kids

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Like everywhere, St. Barth school kids have shed the recent school year like an old skin and turned their full attention to the what summer is really about : vacation. For the lucky, that includes travel and may mean a trip to France or to the USA to show doting grandparents how much they've grown over the past year. It may mean braving the torturous summer lines at Disneyworld for the 2-minute thrill of a roller coaster ride, or, reconnecting with cousins and family friends on neighboring islands. For the less fortunate‚, summer vacation shall be spent in St. Barth, playing at the beach or attending the Lorient summer camp.
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Typically, the international music festival, held annually on June 21, provides the last occasion for kids to show off what they've learned in end-of-the-year recitals and concerts. Such was the case this year as younger musicians performed for Gustavia audiences as the warm-up performers for their musical elders, among them, the Suzuki school kids.
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St-Barth Harmony is one of the most popular music schools in St. Barth, if not the most established. It was started in 1995 under the impulse of Frances Debroff, who convinced Gatien Vilain to run the Suzuki method program for violin. Since its inception, more than 40 kids have learned to play the string instrument, and today, St-Barth Harmony has recently grown to include a piano department. Despite the shoestring budget, the parent association that runs the school manages to send students to Suzuki workshops overseas at least once a year so they can improve their technique and meet other music students.
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Summer, alas, has not been so lighthearted for the island's adults. Two fires, both attributed to arson, have underscored the fact that bad things don't just happen to other people in other places. Police suspect that hoodlums started one of the fires, which occurred at the Mireille Choisy, the island's only middle school. When their attempts to steal cash from the schools safe deposit box failed, the still-unidentified arsonists set fire to the administrative building, causing extensive damage. The incident caused a public outcry, and mayor Bruno Magras asked home owners to screen candidates more carefully before accepting to rent out their homes.
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Security was a topic that made the agenda of the last municipal council meeting. More precisely, the head of the civil aviation administration has been asking local leaders to equip the airport with screening devices for both passengers and baggage. Elected officials are dragging their feet on this one or simply passing the buck in order to dodge the costs of bringing St. Barth's airport up-to-par with current airport security standards. Says St. Barth mayor Bruno Magras, "The international rules set forth by the civil aviation administration could hinder the operation of the St. Barth airport and mean longer waits for passengers. Anyway, the security controls are all done in Sint Maarten." But if locals are hedging when it comes to investing in airport security, they are running out of time when it comes to the reconstruction of the runway. No date has been set, the project is only in the bidding procedure, and it will probably be years before the reconstruction actually get underway, but when it happens, it is going to be a major job that will necessitate shutting down the airport for several weeks and figuring out how to get St. Barth-bound passengers to St. Barth in the meanwhile.
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Summer will put closure on the dossier concerning the island's new status. Members of the local business community and legal counselors met one final time on June 29, to prepare the delegation that will meet with the new minister for France overseas departments on July 15. Its mission: to go over the definitive text that exonerates St. Barth residents from paying French income taxes. Optimism is running at an all-time high, especially since France' Prime Minister confirmed that the country's will be revised in autumn. The revision will include provisions for the à la carte‚ addition of status modifications for France' overseas departments.

Yves Bourel

Yves Bourel


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