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Get to know London District Christian Secondary School
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By Haydn Jensen

Welcome to the best Christian high school in town! Ok, it’s also the only Christian high school in town. I just had to say that. Seriously though, strange things often do happen in people’s minds when they combine the words “Christian” and “school”. There are many well-meaning folks hell-bent on removing all religious elements from formal education, arguing that religion is irrelevant, old-fashioned, agenda-driven or too biased (and that somehow “secular education” is free from bias). Others think that a Christian school mainly teaches religious things and is not academically useful outside of Christian circles. And, still others know the historical link between Christian schools and the Dutch/Christian Reformed Church, and regard these schools as denominationally exclusive church schools where only Christian Reformed Church kids or kids of Dutch heritage would ever feel at home. Well, Tim Bentum, the brand new Principal of the London District Christian Secondary School (LDCSS), has a few thoughts to share that will hopefully ensure a better appreciation of what a school like LDCSS is all about. Tim calls his school “a real gift” to the community. Let's explore what he means.

First of all, as mandated from the Ministry of Education and expected by parents and students alike, Christian schools like LDCSS follow the same curriculum objectives as any other high school in Ontario. The Ministry of Education ensures this by inspecting each school at least every two years--or more often if they think there are problems with the quality of education. The Ontario Secondary School Graduation Diploma earned by graduates at a Christian school is the same as for any public secondary school. By the way, LDCSS has always satisfied the ministry inspectors.

Where the approach might differ from other schools is the Christian education perspective. LDCSS and other similar schools follow a theological and philosophical viewpoint that everything belongs to God. You could then say that every subject area studied in school also belongs to God, and can be pursued from that worldview. Tim shares, “Education is really a storying process. It’s telling students a story about how the world is the way it is.” He says this is the same for public education. His point is, why should we tell that story without God if we believe God is really at the heart of it all?

Yes, there is clearly a Christian perspective taught at LDCSS. True also, the school shares a rich heritage with most Christian schools in its connection to the Christian Reformed Church--the school celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. However, Tim recognizes a recent growing involvement from parents and teachers of other denominations. This means that there are increasingly different views which provide some exciting textures to education at LDCSS. With the wide range of denominations and cultures, it shouldn't really surprise us that all Christians don't always approach things in the same way or even agree on everything. So, when there can be a healthy merge and exchange of viewpoints in the classroom, this also helps prepare children for life after high school. Tim had a real spark in his eye when he told me there is some real leading edge education happening at his school.

Class size at LDCSS is around 21 students per class, and the entire student body is about 260 students from grades 9-12. This is great news in our current education world where student-centered learning has proven to be a very effective teaching approach. Tim says his teachers get to know their students quite well. In bigger schools the larger classes and larger student body require more deliberate efforts to pursue a student-centered approach. At LDCSS, Tim says a student’s education is naturally personalised because students and teachers actually know each other.

In discussing the stigma that only rich families can send their kids to private schools, Tim was careful to caution about lumping all private schools together. There are high priced elite schools which only higher income families can afford. This is not the case for LDCSS. Tim is realistic however, in acknowledging that for many families of LDCSS students, parents do need to plan their finances carefully and be willing to make some sacrifices. Tim says there are some bursaries available. Overall, the goal at LDCSS is that finances should never become a barrier. He feels that students at LDCSS understand that their parents care enough about them to invest in a high quality education based in nurturing Christian focussed environment.

Overall, Tim says their students expect and help create great community at their school and also learn to foster a safe environment in which to work out their Christian worldview. Graduates go on to a wide range of pursuits in secular and Christian based post secondary education, as well as apprenticeships and other direct workplace opportunities. As principal for London District Christian Secondary School, Tim wants his school to be a blessing to all kinds of people. “This school is for anybody”, Tim says. “It’s not only for Dutch people, not only for wealthy families, and not only for people who want to go to Bible College.”

As with the students, the school itself has a great potential for growth. Many current students have parents and even grandparents that attended LDCSS. Tim’s goal is for he and his staff to engage and re-engage every possible member of the LDCSS community and to engage an even wider base of people. He’d like to work on strengthening the school's communication with the London community and help even more people benefit from the excellent opportunities LDCSS has to offer. Although it's tucked away on a quiet street off Gore Road in East London, it really ought to be much better known--it is, after all, the only Christian high school in town!

For more information on London District Christian Secondary School: