“God’s Legacy, God’s Promise” is the theme that was chosen for the 2015-2016 school year at London District Christian Secondary School (LDCSS), as they celebrate 50 years of providing Christ-centred education to high school students from London and surrounding communities.
The year began with excitement and thanksgiving as the school community welcomed their new principal, Mr. Tim Bentum, as well as former students, teachers, principals, parents, board members, and supporters from the community to their opening assembly in September. Together they reflected on God’s Legacy throughout the past 50 years at LDCSS, and on God’s promise to them as they look forward to the next 50 years.
LDCSS Alumni and community supporters have been invited to participate in many of the traditional events at the high school this past year, beginning with the annual golf tournament that took place in September. In December, the gym at LDCSS was filled with staff, students, parents, supporters, and alumni as they joined together for the 50th Anniversary Christmas Concert, which included a performance by a special alumni choir.
[caption id=”attachment_12633” align=”aligncenter” width=”747”] Opening Assembly Celebrations at LDCSS ~ September 2015 ~ May Drost (one of three original teachers) and Tim Bentum (current principal). LDCSS Christmas Concert ~ December 2015 ~ Alumni Choir[/caption]
Along with these joyful moments of celebration throughout the year have come quiet moments of reflection, as those who have been a part of the journey over the past fifty years have taken the time to share their memories of five decades of secondary Christian education.
May Drost, one of the original three teachers when the school began in 1965, shared some of the story of its humble beginnings. “The faith of the Board and Society members in the rightness of the enterprise, coupled with our naïve enthusiasm and energy, was enough to get the school started.”
Ms. Drost shared her experiences as she recalled the early days of teaching twenty-seven grade 9 and 10 students in a very small schoolhouse on Tremont Road in London. Accompanied by her colleagues which included her late husband Wayne Drost (the first principal at LDCSS) and fellow Western student Hank Vandezande, she taught Latin and French in the schoolhouse.
[caption id=”attachment_12594” align=”aligncenter” width=”782”] Dedication Ceremony ~ September 17, 1965[/caption]
Some of the memories she shared were humorous—such as the time that the three teachers were forced to deal with an unwanted guest, a groundhog, which had found its way into the school’s only washroom. Other memories were more reflective, as she recalled the driving spirit of the school that carried them through financial struggles and the difficulties of running the day-to-day activities at the administrative level.
Each of the following decades added both celebrations and struggles to the story. The 70s were exciting times at LDCSS. During the second semester in 1971, the school moved into new facilities on Braesyde Avenue which provided additional classrooms and a new gym for students. The staff rejoiced in having a staff room, a principal’s office, and a washroom that they didn’t have to share with students.
[caption id=”attachment_12571” align=”aligncenter” width=”960”] Staff and Students of 1966-67 in front of the first school house on Tremont Drive[/caption]
Other memories of the 70s at LDCSS included school social events such as roller skating at the nearby “Wheels” roller rink, renting portables for $1.00 per year, a $12 000 donation that was made to the school society by the Ladies Penny Action for classroom furnishings, the blue jumpsuit uniforms that girls were required to wear for their Phys.Ed classes, and the curricular move from an all-year program to a semester system. Another highlight was having an all-school choir under the leadership of Jan Overduin.
[caption id=”attachment_12581” align=”aligncenter” width=”960”] School building at 24 Braesyde Avenue ~ 1976[/caption]
If the 1960s could be described as the decade of birth at LDCSS, and the 1970s as a decade of incredible growth, then the 80s could be described as the decade of stability and sustainability. The school entered the decade as a young school and exited with a celebration of their 25th anniversary. Enrollment reached up to 300 students, and there was a continuous flow of teachers coming and leaving. The most significant staffing change was the arrival of Henry Kooy as the second principal at LDCSS—a position he held for twenty-seven years. The school’s “founding father” and first principal, Mr. Wayne Drost, moved to Lambton Christian High School after eighteen years at the helm.
The 80s were also described as a decade of building and program development at LDCSS. A second addition was built, adding two classrooms, an Art room, and an outdoor courtyard. A computer lab was built, and Computer Studies became part of the curriculum. Their 25th anniversary celebrations also included other renovations and a refurbishing of the facilities, including the installation of a paved parking lot and a rubberized floor in the gym.
[caption id=”attachment_12600” align=”aligncenter” width=”960”] Side parking lot at school, before it was paved[/caption]
The 90s were a decade of change and reform for high school education in Ontario, with the existing five year program changing to four years. A variety of Ontario Academic Courses (OACs) were required for university entrance. Educational programs such as the use of computer technology increased significantly during the 90s, and other programs were initiated such as the band program, a small engines/auto course, and a resource program that was instituted to assist students whose learning needs were not being met in the regular classrooms.
Construction on a two-phase project began in the fall of 1997. The first phase included two science classrooms, a prep room, and a performance arts/music/drama room, which was finished in March of 1998. The second phase, including an atrium, administration and guidance offices, a new front entrance, the relocation of the computer room and library, and other upgrades was completed in time for the opening of the 1998 school year.
[caption id=”attachment_12591” align=”aligncenter” width=”696”] LDCSS Staff Photo ~ 1990[/caption]
Henry Kooy, principal from 1983 - 2009, reflected on the decades he spent in leadership at LDCSS with gratitude.
“I appreciated the efforts of the teachers to provide an education that integrated Christian faith, learning, and living for a life of service, to provide a positive school environment, and to provide a multi-faceted extracurricular program,” Mr. Kooy shared. “As teachers, we were blessed to be a part of a multi-gifted, cohesive staff community partnering with a committed, supportive, and appreciative parent community to provide our students with a Christian high school education.”
God’s blessing has continued to rest on the LDCSS community into the 21st century. In the fall of 2009, Dwayne Bulthuis became the third principal of the school, and his leadership carried the school community through the unrestful times that followed the destruction of the World Trade Centre, as well as prosperous times where the school saw enrollment peak at its highest in the history of LDCSS to date.
As the community at LDCSS continues to reflect on God’s Legacy and the blessings that have been woven throughout their 50 year journey, they are also committed to looking forward to God’s promises for their community in the future. New principal Tim Bentum believes that they have a lot to be excited about, looking ahead.
“We have a great staff and a great supporting community who are deeply committed to seeing LDCSS flourish for years to come,” he shares. “It is our great hope that this school will become deeply embedded in the life of the local and global communities that surround us.”
“Our focus is on being difference makers—culture makers—both individually and collectively,” Mr. Bentum adds. “By God’s grace we will see another 50 years of dynamic and engaging education at LDCSS!”
The LDCSS community is especially excited to invite their former students, teachers, principals, parents, board members, and supporters from the community to their upcoming 50th Anniversary Celebration Weekend in April. You can find out more about these celebrations on their website (www.ldcss.ca) or on their Facebook page (London District Christian Secondary School 50th Anniversary).