Thomson Collegiate likely to be demolished and land sold: Board decision


Thomson site likely to be sold as part of plan 

By DANIELLE MILLEY – February 5, 2009

Change is on the horizon for secondary schools in Scarborough. 

Wednesday night the Toronto District School Board passed staff’s recommendation to consolidate Bendale Business and Technical Institute and David and Mary Thomson Collegiate Institute into one school that would be housed in a renovated Bendale. 

The recommendations were based on a report done by the accommodation review committee considering what should be done with Bendale, Thomson and Donwood Park Public School. 

The committee recommended a kindergarten to Grade 12 campus on the 38-acre property (that also includes Highbrook Learning Centre) with the surplus land to be sold to pay for the new school. 

Based on costs consideration, staff recommended the board renovate Donwood and change it from a kindergarten to Grade 6 to a K-8 school, while a deep retrofit be undertaken at Bendale. 

“It will still be a brand new state of the art facility,” said Ward 19 (Scarborough Centre) Trustee Scott Harrison, who initiated the process. “Would it be nice to have a brand new facility? Sure, but we also have to look at the cost to taxpayers.” 

He said the board will work with the foundation on site to create the best learning facility for students. He cited other examples of deep retrofits that were complete make overs including Cedarbrae Mall and the Royal Ontario Museum. “When these buildings are done they are brand new facilities,” he said. 

The site that contains the four schools is bordered by Lawrence, Dorcot and Midland avenues. With Bendale being recommended as the site of the consolidated secondary school, it is likely a portion of land fronting Lawrence Avenue be deemed surplus and sold. 

Harrison said this is not the end of the journey, but the beginning of the second part as design work will need to be done, as well as program planning for the new secondary school. More community input will be sought. “We’ll be hosting a couple of community meetings to allow the community to participate in a design charette,” he said. 

A plan for what would happen during construction would also have to be determined – would students attend Thomson while Bendale is renovated or would another surplus school in the area be used during construction, and what would happen during the construction at Donwood are some of the questions facing the board. 

Harrison said it would probably be a year before any shovels hit the ground.

Another secondary school in Scarborough could face closure. A report from the Timothy Eaton Business and Technical Institute accommodation review committee was also part of Wednesday night’s agenda (it will be received as information next week as the board didn’t get to it) that recommended the closure of the school.

“These recommendations will now go to the director’s office and from there go to the board to vote,” said Ward 20 (Scarborough-Agincourt) Trustee Soo Wong, who stressed it is just a recommendation at this point and no decision has been made.

The report also recommended a centre of specialization be created using the existing school facility. It would operate either as a stand alone centre or in a campus relationship with one or more of the seven surrounding collegiates; it would cater primarily to Grade 11 and 12 students.

The ARC process was begun in order to address declining enrolment and to offer the best possible programming to students.


#1 Captain J.A. on 02.07.09 at 8:07 pm

As a former Thomson student who came via way of Donwood and Highbrook, I can appreciate change and improvement too late in the making. Ongoing site upgrades over the many decades should have been made as part of a federal and provincial and municipal mandate. One wonders what is the true and non-political reasoning behind Scott Harrison, ward 19, school trustee who initiated the process. What does he stand to gain and which companies benefit from the contracts and tenders to break ground and lay in the shovels? Can the taxpayers money be spent responsibly while allowing tradespersons, $25-40/hr and construction staff, 5 standing around, 1 person holding a go-slow sign, $35/hr? Will the city of Scarborough change the taxpayer mill rates to reflect the change in the educational model of feeder schools, kindergarten to grade 6, a middle school of grades 7,8 and a high school of grades 9 to 12? Less schools and consolidation to a j-k/s-k to grade 12 mega-school, can it be properly managed? Will the tax mill rate be lowered to reflect less school infrastructure. What is the scope of operations, will the students suffer from a lack of teacher focus that has always plagued the Ontario and further, the Canadian educational system? Many, many questions that have not even been addressed, less answered an we are only 1 yr away from laying in shovels? I think not! We need responsible government making responsible decisions. I would hate to think any surplus land sold ends up in the pockets of the dishonest. Back to our primary concern, the betterment and advancement of the education of our children. We need to preserve the sanctity of our cherished institutions. Let us upgrade Thomson and modernize an already well established shell structure with a proven powerplant/boiler system. Yet include newer green technologies, such as green roofs, reuse of waste water,heat recovery and an on-site garbage reduce, re-use, recyle system. Repair, instead of tear down to a long term efficiency. All Thompson would need is a re-working of existing space as enrollment is already at half capacity of approximately 1,200 students for a site that handled 2,000+ in its heyday. New science labs, gyms, recreational facilities can be planned within the land basin of the existing school structure. Surrounding fields and green space can be re-worked. Bendale is on the periphery of the boundaries. Thomson fronts Lawrence and is the given/deeded land of the original Thomson family. Let us preserve their heritage handed down to us. What will become of the David and Mary Thomson name ? This is not a strip mall we are taking down, let us not treat the planning as such. This is why we can never build a name like Oxford or even Upper Canada College because we are so intent on tearing down the heritage and laying waste to the memories of the alumni. Who will remember the forgotten, the students we buried all too young, students who lived in the very same neighbourhoods, like Deanna Hunt who was killed in a tragic car accident in 1981. Thomson means so very much to all of us. Who the hell is Scott Harrison???

#2 Srobinto on 02.08.09 at 10:58 am

Now I know why I’ve been having so many dreams about this high school. As a former student, 81-86, I have many memories of this school still swimming around in my head. I know this school was built for the ‘Boomers’ and that it’s underused and that it was never really given any extras, like a pool or an area to compliment it; so it’s not that hard to understand why it can’t come down. It’s served its purpose and now it must go the way of the dinosaur. Goodbye Thomson C.I.

#3 Thomson Alumnus writes ... on 02.08.09 at 10:36 pm

“Captain J. A” raises some good issues re: the need for a more thorough investigation, or at least some sense of transparency that said investigation/consultation has occurred. This proposition does represent a significant historic, educational, and economic impact on the local environment (both anthropological and ecological). Local constituents ought to be on top of this with their politicians to ensure that it handled appropriately, and that proper safeties are in place to avoid mismanagement – however – given the mindset of many Canadian voters, that likely will not happen due to complacency.

As a fellow Thomson alumnus I would counter Captain J A’s points by positing the following:

1/ How would the sale of Thomson, rather than Bendale ensure that profits don’t leach into the hands of our dishonest politicians?

2/ Justifying the existence of the building based on nostalgia is a flawed argument, and using a young girl’s untimely demise to defend an educational institution against your perception of a corrupt political structure is at best an unjust liberty, and at worst sentimentalist extortion of the worst kind. I’m sure there are just as many who could make similar arguments for Bendale – and make it stronger as the Thomson name is already memorialised in many other ways in that area (cf. Thomson Park, et al).

3/ Comparisons to Oxford and UCC are also flawed. Oxford is a wholly other kind of beast, and any comparison between the two is apples to oranges. So to is the comparison between UCC and any product of the public school system, since most private schools have a proven track record for better academics than than the majority of their publicly funded counterparts. UCC IS a product of the Canadian educational system, however, therefore your argument is moot. UCC is a product of the Canadian education culture, albeit private education. To say that “we” cannot produce institutions like UCC is an untenable position – “we” did.

The amalgamation of the two schools (Bendale & Thomson) may actually be of benefit … if handled properly. In my time at Thomson, Bendale was considered a lower end institution – a trade school rather than an institution of collegiate education. If amalgamation teaches our youth to work better, together, independent of skill set, all the better. It may be a way of overcoming the false class consciousness that prevailed in my time at Thomson.

Furthermore, if amalgamation produces a better educational environment (a better “product” for the taxpayer, if you will) why not.? It’s bad economics to staff both at half capacity.

Finally, please don’t paint all students of Thomson CI with such a broad brush as to say “Thomson means so very much to all of us”. Everything has a shelf life … if Thomson, or Bendale, have reached their’s let the dog die and move on.

#4 Scarborough Ratepayer on 02.09.09 at 12:23 am

To quote Mr. Harrison, ” Local constituents ought to be on top of this with their politicians to ensure that it handled appropriately, and that proper safeties are in place to avoid mismanagement – however – given the mindset of many Canadian voters, that likely will not happen due to complacency.” Mr. Harrison, that is a very negative thing to say, even if true and you have no empirical evidence or thesis short of the last federal electoral turnout,which does not qualify your statement re a municipal matter. We are not complacent and we will be watching you very closely. So you do not have a free pass on this matter. Prepare yourself diligently for the upcoming townhall’s, as there wil be many questions that need answering to our satisfaction. In no uncertain terms your credibility is on the line and so is your political future. Oh, in the future please identify when leaving comments in this forum other than just,”thomson alumnus”.

#5 Thomson Alumnus on 02.09.09 at 7:54 am

As to Scarborough Ratepayer’s comments –

Re complacency:
You are correct, my comments about voter complacency was a negative (or at least very cynical) thing to say. You are further correct that it was informed largely by voter turn out at the federal and provincial ballot boxes. I would be most happy to see members of the community take me up on this challenge, engaging all levels of government.

Re Identifying me as Mr. Harrison:
You are wholly incorrect. I’m just a guy who used to attend Thomson, whose wife brought the article to my attention. But again, if that’s what floats your boat, and that of others, toward legitimate involvement in the political process, fine.

Re your terse comment ‘Oh, in the future please identify when leaving comments in this forum other than just,”thomson alumnus”’ – take your own advice “Scarborough Ratepayer”. I see you have the same amount of “gumption” as you accuse me of.

Despite your venom, our motives may be more analogous than you may be willing to admit.

Have a nice day.

#6 Scarborough Ratepayer on 02.09.09 at 12:50 pm

to: thomson alumnus, true, true ,guilty as charged. let us though do what is best for the community and the improvement of education in the area.

#7 Thomson Alumnus on 02.09.09 at 2:46 pm

Doing what’s best for the entire community is a laudable goal, we can agree to work toward. Definitely something that takes a commitment of time, and courage to enter into dialogue, working toward a goal that may be a compromise for all, to serve all. Thanks for your comments, and your commitment.

#8 sue silburn on 02.24.09 at 12:41 pm

As a former Thomson Student and a parent of a current student attending Thomson I am not for the merge of Bendale with Thomson. If I wanted my son to attend Bendale he would be there. That school is a Business Tech school which has many students that I do not want my child around. They have already had several incidents there where the police had to attend and which was publicized on the news. Thomson was on lockdown because of this.

I am totally against this and hopefully when the construction starts my son would have graduated

#9 lorne chiles on 02.25.09 at 12:48 am

Right on Sue! We have that [expletive deleted] school trustee, Scott Harrison to thank for this. Seems to be blowing his own horn and not listening to the public. Phone his office and complain. I have 500 signatures on petition i will be bringing to the reunion to add many more.

#10 Alex Wilson on 02.27.09 at 8:09 pm

I wonder if any of the red bricks could be salvaged from the building and laser engraved with the school logo?

Now that would be a classic souvenir I for one would like to have as a fond memory from years at Thomson

#11 Another Thomson Alum on 03.02.09 at 12:10 pm

DMTCI shouldn’t close…or if they decide to go along with this incredibly stupid idea, they should rename Bendale.

#12 roslyn collins on 03.03.09 at 7:57 pm

I was surprised to hear this news. I was fresh blood when I started Thomson, recently moving to the area. That school was my life for 4 years. Some of the best memories and friends. I will be attending the reunion proudly. Unfortunately so much in Scarborough has been changed, torn down or renovated in the last years. It only makes financial sense to merge schools. Any concerned parents can only hope with the new school comes improved security for the students.

#13 Steve on 03.17.09 at 9:34 am

Something nobody seems to have touched upon; who’s idea was it to have a school that ranges from Kindergarden to grade 12? We need seperate schools for these age groups! I would not want a 5 or 6 year old in the same halls as the 16 and 17 year olds…..bad idea

#14 Distraught! on 03.18.09 at 5:32 pm

I had no idea this was in the works. Is there any way to protest?

#15 The Fifty-First on 03.19.09 at 12:20 am

I was on the committee when this idea was being explored. I didn’t like it then, I don’t like it now.

One of the ideas I did like was to have a two-campus high school scenario. Students who were attending DMT and wanted to take a Bendale course could, and visa-versa.

A K-12 is stupid, and dangerous! I don’t remember that idea being brought up at the meeting.

If it is demolished, where will my high-school class’s reunions be held? Bendale? I didn’t attend Bendale. I was proud to attend Thomson.

When Midland closed, at least their alumni have a building to visit. Thomson Alumni wouldn’t.

I agree with the above “Distraught”, something should be done.

#16 J. Petrovich on 03.20.09 at 3:05 pm

The best years of my teenage life were at David and Mary
It was{is} a good school,both my brothers graduated from there as well. This has left me with sadness that a part of my past will be torn down. I made a lot of friends their and the teachers were second to none. I attended 1971 to 1975.

#17 AJ in Tampa on 03.30.09 at 8:15 pm

remember the politically incorrect warcry from DMT students addressing those “BBBBBBBendale”. The merged school should be called D&MT. Bendale should be retired.

#18 V. Rennie on 04.04.09 at 10:09 am

Are we to lose every reminder of the pioneers David and Mary Thomson? At least I can live with being a decendant of, as many others are. Google is an amazing tool. I don’t get to Scarborough much, but when I do I always visit the old neighbourhood and it will be sad not to see it gone! meh the day paradise…

#19 Scar-bro on 04.07.09 at 9:17 pm

Kinda like a Midland in the making…

#20 Mark Little on 04.14.09 at 2:41 pm

What can I say,I don’t live here anymore.I found out about this when my sister told me of the reunion.It will be sad to see the school gone.I too attended Thomson.To be honest I could not wait to leave and did several times.Going back to Scarborough is not the same as when I grew up.I am 54 now and see lots of changes in the area.Time and tide wait for no man.At least when they closed RH king they used the original entrance in the new building but with Thomson it was not built of a grand design.The people who are in Scarborough now will have to make these decisions.My hope would be some recognition of the Thomson family and heritage in whatever will come to be.There has to be that .A lot of Scarborough seemed to have been done really with no thought of the future and really no sense of the past.Thats it for me ……Memories are all I am left with,and the thoughts of allthe friends I had at good old ThomsonC.I. Best Wishes All

#21 Rick Andrews on 04.14.09 at 8:45 pm

Screw it all
I think that the former students should be invited to torch the joint when the time comes

#22 Valerie Shank(Rombough) on 04.14.09 at 9:34 pm

I think that it is a mistake to tear down a part of the history of Scarborough. All you need to do is drive around Scarborough and ask yourself where all the landmarks have gone. I grew up in the Knob Hill area and walked to Thomson every day. There is no historic value in ‘Bendale’. If a building has to be demolished, let it be Bendale and modernize TMCI. What will be next? I don’t even like coming to Scarborough any more because of all the changes. Is the park to be our only reminder left of David and Mary Thomson?

#23 Ed Gomes on 04.20.09 at 11:27 am

I think Rick Andrew’s has the right fact, Bendale should be thrown in as a bonus offer to show respect for those students who got shoved into that school because they didn’t comform to the DMT academic behaviors of the time. As a tech student at DMT back in 69-70 my memories are with the Broom and Stone ..DMT should have been torn down at the same time by the B&S Happy Hour Gang . The only brick I want from that building is the one I would throw back.. I can’t say enough about the friends I made and I won’t say anything about the staff and building…I remember them as suffocating…demolish it and turn it into a play ground in memory of all those students who worked hard to make it out and for those who didn’t make it.. we had a few. I plan to walk the halls of DMT on May 2nd only because I want to say good-bye to those I missed.. gym and the back door I used when going home…My choice of moving to Stephen Leacock for Radio TV was a liberation. It was a modern school with modern thinking, those who followed in my foot steps echo the same…DMT was not a fun place to be. by the way…all the teachers cars we worked on in shop…yep, the tire marks on the back parking lot came from your cars..have a nice day!

#24 Wayne Linton on 04.23.09 at 9:47 pm

Shocked! Being torn down?! I just found out about this from a childhood friend ‘back east’ with whom I stay in touch. Strange that just last night I had a dream about D&MT. I can still sing the D&MT ‘anthem’ (do they still sing that uplifting song? Into the darkness of the forest …), and cherish the time I spent in her halls. I was there for only grades 9 & 10 (1965/6), but it was so full of life it still holds a special warm place in my memories. (And thanks to Mr. Bride, I still know the french Lord’s Prayer and the Marseilles!) I now live in Calgary and will not be able to make the reunion. Have fun!

#25 Connie Malta-Vit on 04.24.09 at 9:30 am

I truly believe that the”consolidation” idea is catastrophic. Look at what has happened to our City of Toronto, now a “Mega-City” with the consolidation of the 5 boroughs, including Scarborough, a place where I was raised and hold many dear memories both at David and Mary Thomson Collegiate and Thomson Park, the lands for which were donated by one of Ontario’s founding families.

The intention of consolidation is to save money but, I believe that we will be spending more money to correct its failures. Children, especially those in the primary grades, need to feel that they are secure and accepted within their community, most of all at school, where they spend most of their time. By being part of a large school, staff and children will be overwhelmed with large class sizes, children will lose their sense of security and themselves in the process. You can’t throw children into a University environment; you must prepare them for it. Children need to be children amongst children of their own age groups who they can relate to, to grow into healthy adults both mentally and physically. I am a big believer that our Board of Education should concentrate on a non-denominational educational system, one that is fair for all, with schools housing smaller classrooms where our children can actually be taught something. Being involved in development work in the past, developers are usually required to collect and pay Educational Development Charges from new construction buyers and this money should be put to keep our schools safe and free from development takeovers of adjacent greenspace. I reside in York Region where I have seen the school property being sold off to developers for money, leaving children with no greenspace to play.

The TDSB should teach our our children about Canadian Heritage. For those of you at the TDSB that don’t know, “Heritage” means “property that descends to an heir”. David and Mary Thomson donated these lands and, we should honour them as part of our Canadian Heritage by keeping their name on the David and Mary Thomson Collegiate site, as well as Thomson Park.

Here is to you, David and Mary Thomson!

#26 SFD on 04.29.09 at 1:12 am

Scarbro, Scarlem, Scarberia, Scar’d… take your pick. It’s nothing but a wasteland now. Having been born at SGH, schooled in Scarborough, and worked for the City of Scarborough, I think it is time for all to bid their final adieu. Both the federal and provincial gov’ts destroyed what was once a proud place to call home. Simply, the demise of Thomson is but the final nail in the coffin of Scarboro’s glory.

#27 Sandra MacCaull on 04.29.09 at 5:04 pm

I am saddened by this development. I attended DMT 74-78 and LOVED it. I blossomed into a young woman with some level of intelligence under the strict instruction of some teachers and the patient/gentle guidance of others (Mr. Lake, Miss Russell, Miss Wall). I loved the football games! I loved ISCF! We developed friendships that have lasted over the decades. I also had friends in Bendale. It seemed wrong to isolate non-academic achievers, and even then Bendale seemed like a penal institution.

Recently I viewed a sketch of a plan to consolidate the four schools into one, using the field that so many of us traversed enroute to school. THAT seems like a much better idea. Our pre-teens should be separate from our teens. And building Highbrook was a great idea at the time, but perhaps the schools should be JK to grade 6 and then grade 7 through 12 (does anybody do grade 13 anymore?).

I realize that demographics are changing. I live in PEI and it’s just starting here. Smaller schools are being closed in favour of bigger schools. But our children must be bussed and that means many school closures for inclimate weather. Think about accessibility. Think about how long this slump in attendance is going to last. Think about what the future academic and technical skill requirements are going to be from these students entering the future workforce.

Why can’t you utilize the present structures, make the classrooms bigger and offer more specialized training? Why not tear down Bendale (which always seemed rundown even in the 60s)? Use Highbrook for teacher training seminars, adult education, etc. Blend Donwood and Thomson, utilizing the field (as in yesteryear) for athletic and physical education/ development? Both schools could use this property if it was developed properly. It could be an indoor track, pool, gym, tennis courts (aren’t we always reading about obesity in our youth?)

I totally understand that running a business over-budget is bad business. I further understand that most people don’t appreciate what they have until its gone. History plays a big part in our lives. We learn and grow from it (or should). If “David & Mary Thomson” is torn down, re-building and re-naming could still encompass some history (a green space with plaques etc) by keeping the name prominent…”Thomson CI”.

I’m also sad that Midland has gone. But it was going downhill fast back in the 70s. Where do all those students now have to travel to for classes?

Man, it’s hard to believe how 50 years can change the face of my home town. Towers and Food City were within walking distance, through the school field that almost always had children playing in it. It was safe then. We even attended the little Baptist Church behind the store. Sunday School was held in the gymnasium at Donwood Park PS. We used to walk to the corner of Brimley and Lawrence every Saturday for bowling. We got Chinese food from Ding Ho’s….same corner.

My brother moved away from Scarborough because he could here gunshots from the restaurant in that plaza while he was sitting in his front yard.

In some cases, progress can be a good thing. But, is THIS progress?

Happy Anniversary David & Mary Thomson C.I. Thank you for four great years, for wonderful memories, and lifelong friendships.

#28 GAIL THOMSON-BARTLEY on 05.02.09 at 10:11 pm

i went to thomson from 68-72 after i worked for scarboro general hospital i moved from scarboro to pickering and my parents went to st catharinins my parents left because of the changing face of scarboro they felt uncomfortable in an area they had lived in for 30 years. i went to the reunion today i felt as if i was in another country this area is so run down i was very sad at these changes.iam sure they only want to tear down the school to build high priced condos. even though my years at thomson were not my best time in life i still will miss the place

#29 Graham S. Hill on 05.05.09 at 7:48 am

Land grants of the type described in regards to the property of, “David & Mary Thomson” that was subsequently donated to the City of Scarborough, INC.
In 1779, it was agreed that the grants would be allowed as long as when the common people needed the land for their raising their children, and when they had no more need for the land, the land is suppose to be returned to the ownership of the Haudenosaunee Peoples of Six Nations, Hereditary Chiefs and Clan Mothers, not to granted away to anyone else, and especially an entity of incorporation such as that of the City of Scarborough, Inc. It is now suggested that an appointment be made with the H.D.I. – Haudenosaunee Development Institute as soon as possible to discuss these matters. Any and all receipts and paper work that you may have are all in question, fraudulent documents. If the agreements do not have the seal of approval from the Peoples of Six Nations it will be discussed as to the action to be taken next, but in absence of any response decisions made be made without your valuable input.

#30 M Vella on 05.10.09 at 8:24 am

Food for thought:
DMT and Bendale are connected at the back, so the property is connected and the new school construction could be done at DMT. The only reason I believe DMT was chosen to be “the surplus land to be sold”, is that its prime real estate being on a Lawrence Ave. A condo or business would do well.

Hidden agenda, is the true culprit $$$?

#31 Bill Wabb on 05.20.09 at 6:58 pm

Mr. Andrews’ suggestion makes the most sense to me…

#32 Steven Kruetzmann on 07.08.09 at 2:41 pm

When I attended Thomson, the Bendale School was called BTI for one reason: BIG TIME IDIOT – that was where all the problems, drugs, issues, violence, everything was. Maybe I’m being kinda naive, but do we really want the two schools intermingled like that? 🙂

#33 cara li on 09.01.09 at 10:33 pm

i will be attending thomson this year (2009-2010)
I’m not for this whole demolishing thing because you have students just starting this school and i don’t think it’s right to shove them in another school due to demolition. There are hundreds of students in thomson and you can’t find a place for each and everyone of them.

#34 George on 02.07.10 at 6:19 pm

Scarborough was once a great place when my parents bought a house in the 70s, my brother and sister went to Thompson and loved it, by the time I got around to going in the late 90s it was a piece of garbage. Scarborough in fact has become a piece of garbage, I can’t wait to move out from here it has turned into a wasteland for poverty and the city shoves all the gov’t housing there.

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