History of Delta Secondary School
King George V High School, the first high school in Delta, was located on the present site of the Ladner Community Center. The first two rooms of the school were built in 1912, with a third room added in 1916. Simeon Fisher in his book “The History of Delta” states that there was “opposition to building the school in Ladner on the grounds that there were not enough children to keep it going”. The school closed in 1938 having had almost 500 students graduate during the life of the school. The building was not demolished right away but became a canteen known as the “Ladner Dug Out” to provide some diversion for the military who were training in Delta. After WW II, the Ladies Auxiliary of the Royal Canadian Legion used the building for meetings before it was replaced by a bowling alley and later the present community center.
In 1938, Delta Central School, originally built in 1926 and used as an elementary school (grade 1-8), was enlarged and updated for senior students while a new elementary school was built on the same plot of land, the site of DSS today. A new gym separated the two schools. The Weekly Optimist of December 15, 1938, reported that “the building and equipping of the new schools has taken many long sessions of deliberation by the school trustees and today the Junior-Senior High School, elementary school, gymnasium and manual training quarters are completely modern and fully equipped, supervised by a capable, enthusiastic teaching staff.” 270 students were enrolled in the school at this time.
The official opening of the “Ladner Elementary and Junior/Senior High School Center” took place in April 1939 and was attended by many dignitaries, including Reeve A.D. Paterson. Covering this dedication ceremony, a reporter for the Weekly Optimist of April 6, 1939, reported that “the new elementary school building received particular attention, it being the most modern school on the Delta and being designed according to the latest ideas in rural construction”.
Between 1938 and 1989 there were at least ten additions to the school. By 1952, the elementary school had become known as Delta Jr. Secondary while the Central School building (B block) and various additions made up the Delta Sr. Secondary, two separate schools on the same site. In 1978 (thanks for the correction Mr. Lawrence), the schools were amalgamated into one school, known as Delta Secondary School. It wasn’t until 1984, with the building of the art wing that the schools were physically joined. In 1990, the Genesis Theatre was built, paving the way for the present building we have today.
In 1992, the design for our present school was approved. The B Block (Central School) building was demolished in 1992. In October 1994, construction began on the new school, with the main office and counsellors” office being completed first. The rest of the old senior school was demolished in May and June of 1995, and the new quadrangle with 21 classrooms, 7 science labs, 4 computer labs and a classroom for special needs students was built. Following this, more demolition and renovation followed, including a new daycare area, food and textile room renovations, construction of the CAD lab, and the completion of the drama area. The total cost of these renovations was $12.6 million dollars. On June 2, 1998, a formal dedication of the redevelopment of the school was held. The ceremony was attended by representatives from the school board and the school district.
There are many interesting stories to be told about DSS through the years. One of the most entertaining is the story of the “kidnapping” of the school bell. The bell, once used on the steam locomotive running from Surrey to Port Guichon, was used at the Central School from 1926 until 1938 and then was placed in storage in the DSS attic. In 1969, the bell was to be donated to the Delta Historical Society so it could be rung by Premier W.A.C. Bennett at the opening of the new Delta Museum on November 10. On October 27, the bell was discovered missing and in its place was a ransom note from the members of “Operation Stopgap” (the name given to the plan to replenish the book shelves at the school library) demanding community funds to purchase new textbooks to replace books lost in a school fire in September 1969. The ransom was paid and the bell handed over to the Delta Museum.
The “kidnapping” was seen as profitable for all sides. The ransom demand focused attention on the need for new textbooks, the Premier was able to ring in the opening of the new museum in style, and school workers did not have to go to the trouble of bringing it down from the attic. For an interesting look at the life of Delta Secondary, the personal account of Jessie M. Reagh Bekher entitled “Reflection of Delta Central School, Ladner B.C.” is available at the Delta Museum Archives.