By Tom Ellison – © 1986
King City Secondary School currently sits on eighteen acres of what was once prime agricultural land. The property was owned, as early as 1917, by James Gillies, a local farmer. And like many of King’s traditions, several of his descendants appeared on the student attendance rolls in the school’s early years.
The original twelve acre site was purchased on March 3, 1960, from Ralph and Alma Gillies for the sum of $36,000. The purchaser was the Aurora District High School Board. The decision to construct a second high school in the southern part of York County had been made a few years earlier in response to the needs of a growing population. Education for young people at the secondary level, prior to this time, had been handled by the old Aurora High School (now Dr. G.W. Williams Secondary School) however, by the late 1950’s the school was overcrowded and a new school in the King area became necessary to ease the burden.
Construction of the King City Composite School began in 1960. The doors were open and classes were ready to begin by September of 1961. The firm of Boigon and Associates had been retained to design the building, while responsibility for construction lay with Cullen Construction Co. Ltd. of Toronto. On the evening of April 6, 1962 at the official opening of King City Composite School, Mr. M.A. Cullen presented an engraved key of the school to Mr. John Turchin, the first Vice-Principal at King. Marvin Hunter, representing the board, donated a commemorative bible to the school. (Both of these items are now in the hands of the KCSS Alumni Association and plans are afoot to have them permanently displayed in the school). Mrs. Harvey, the head secretary, was then asked to present a bouquet to Mrs. Urquhart, wife of the chairman of the Board of Education. With these presentations the educational and social institution that is known to all of us as King City Secondary was born.
By January 28th, 1962, the federal government in Ottawa had approved a grant of $668,190 toward the construction of the Technical wing that now sits at the south west corner of the school. The remaining monies required for construction, some $890,000, were to come from the provincial coffers.
On August 28th, 1962, an additional six acres of land to the east of the building were purchased from Mr. and Mrs. Albon of Clearwater, Florida, for the price of $20,000. On this piece of land plans were designed for the building of what is now gym III, the Multi Purpose Room, the student parking lot and the east soccer and football field. ***
With the addition of a teachers’ cafeteria in August of 1962, the Technical wing in 1963 and the library and third gym in 1966, the school took on its present appearance. Changes that have taken place since that time have been largely cosmetic. For example, due to the furor over the international oil shortage in the mid-1970’s, some concern was raised at the Board level over the cost of heating such a large complex. Consequently the school was converted to natural gas heating in 1983. A bright, yellow supply line can now be seen encircling the building.
In the Fall of 1977, Mr. Smith and Mr. Ellison added panelling to the corridor east of the main gymnasium and the Student Athletic Council created the Sports Hall of Fame. A similar attempt was made in the gym to honour the best basketball players from our past with the ‘Wall of Fame’. Cathy Hughson [1976), a former student and SAC vice-president, was responsible for most of the work on the Wall. In 1984 the basketball teams, with some assistance from the Student Council, added the glass backboards that can now be seen at either end of the floor. Now that the football Hall of Fame is underway [thanks largely to Michelle Cellucci and Christy Gavigan), the athletic department needs only its long-awaited track and field records’ board before its attempts to outshine our past ‘greats’ will be complete.
Considerable effort has gone into improving the overall appearance and atmosphere of the school, with much of the credit owing to the new administrative team of Mr. Fawcett and Mr. Bright. Over the past few years it had become quite obvious to all who entered the front doors, that the building was taking on a rather unkempt look. The last two or three years have been devoted to altering that look.
The large outdoor planter no longer looks like a gun emplacement. The old, cracked retaining base has been replaced. A walk down the Hall of Fame will reveal the same treatment given to the indoor courtyards. Visitors to the main foyer will notice the improvements made to the planter. Various students and teachers over the last few years have spent considerable time here; we have a new railing thanks to Mr. Marsh, Mr. Quinn and Mr. Pattison of the Technical department and their students - Karl Wolfer, Scott Colwell, Rob Paxton, Peter Leonard and Wayne Lowdon (1981). As a result of their efforts, and those of Mike Osborne, Ed Bertolo and Mark Hemstock who added a variety of new plants, the planter has been rescued from the ravages of time and students
The most noticeable change, however, has been the remodelling of the main office. With the retirement of Mrs. Specht [Harvey), there came a major change to the office. It was, and still is, the focal point of our school lives whether we be teachers or students. The old office seemed somehow suited to King City Secondary School in its early years. It smacked of authority, discipline and an ordered life. The counter separated the world of the student from that of the staff and said, "This is as far as you go!". As a matter of fact, there was a time when teachers themselves were discouraged from going behind the counter. It was also a time when being sent to the office was a fate worse than death for the average student, because it meant he or she would arrive there to find the stern countenance of John Turchin facing them from across the counter.
Today [1986), we see a much rearranged office, one that represents a school that has moved with the times. Open and airy, with carpet on the floor, the atmosphere seems equally suited to the "communicative" ‘80’s. The person searching through the timetables, making a phone call or using the copier could just as easily be a student or a teacher. Today’s student seems to have grown older faster, and K.C.S.S. treats them as adults more than ever before. The 1985 Archon is entitled ‘Changes’. It accurately reflects what our Alma Mater is all about.
*** Many old-time students undoubtedly have vivid memories of climbing over broken-down wire fence and holding Phys Ed. classes in the farmer’s field. Had they but known that, years later, another generation of King students would have to endure bubbling sewage in the same area, those pioneers might not have complained so much.
N.B. Since the above was written in 1986 several significant changes have occurred at King. In 1991 the south student courtyard was used for the construction of the school's new library, while the north courtyard has become a student memorial space.
The original gym floor was torn up in the mid 90's and replaced due to water seepage underneath. Then, this new floor was, itself, torn up and replaced in 2001.
The movie shoot for "Diary of a Teenage Prom Queen" in 2002 resulted in an influx of cash for KCSS and the construction of a brand new music room in the south student hall way containing the school's shop class rooms. Mr. Pattison's weldng shop has now become a student/staff weight room and fitness centre).
By 2004 the brick half-wall in front of the school was gone, replaced by the current gently sloping hill in front of the doors.
In the summer of 2005 the Board of Education rebuilt the east parking lot.
In the fall of 2006 work was started on the long-awaited expansion to the Science Department and completed the following year.
2008 saw the removal of the main foyer flower bed and replaced by a wheel chair access ramp. Wayne Lowdon was contacted and he managed to salvage most of his railing built many years previously. [A similar, less obtrusive ramp was built a few years earlier in the middle student hallway leading to the Theatre Arts room).
In 2009 a student-use elevator was installed at the corner of the main office corridor across from the staff room.
The most recent change seen at KCSS is the complete rebuild done on the west side of the school. The football field was replaced in 2011 with new drainage and sod and will be ready for use by the spring of 2013. Gone are the single post goals which made King's field so unique in York Region. They have been replaced by multi-use goals suitable for soccer and field hockey as well as football.