George Bonner Middle School serves the educational needs of grade 6, 7 and 8 students in the south end of School District 79 (Cowichan Valley). Most of our students are bused to school each day. We draw our population from quite a widespread area –- including Spectacle Lake on the top of the Malahat, Shawnigan Lake, Mill Bay, Cobble Hill, Cowichan Station and Cowichan Bay. When our students complete Grade 8 at Bonner, most of them will attend Frances Kelsey Secondary School.
George Bonner Middle School is bordered on three sides by farmland. The Horton family owns this property, 240 acres in all. The Horton family originally owned 45 acres bought in 1929. In 1955 they purchased 195 acres from the Hollings family. Shortly afterwards Les and Winifred Horton sold 10 acres to the school district for the site of the present school. Most of Horton’s property is used for growing hay.
The road running in front of the school was part of the original Island Highway. In fact, if you look to the northwest along Cobble Hill Road you will see an old farmhouse that was a stage-coach stop and the nearby barn was used as a livery stable.
While the George Bonner is a middle school now, it did not begin that way. George Bonner Secondary, named in honour of Mr. George E. Bonner, a long time trustee, was opened in the fall of 1957. Bonner opened as a high school, so that south end students from grades seven to twelve would not have to travel to Duncan to attend school. Prior to the opening of Bonner, students who wanted to continue their education at the secondary level in Duncan were often required to board there. During its first year of operation, the school served 200 students in grades 7 to 11, with a staff of twelve guided by Mr. W. V. Allester, the school’s first principal.
In 1958-59, Bonner in its second year already had its second Principal, Mr. Todd. The school’s first grade 12 graduating class, consisted of twelve young people.
In 1959-60, Bonner had its final grade 12 graduating class – a group of fifteen. Apparently, this was the final class of graduates because of the increased enrollment at the school.
During the ensuing years, George Bonner became a junior secondary school enrolling grades 8, 9, and 10. The school was built onto on at least four occasions to accommodate its burgeoning enrollment. Mr. P. F. Owen was the principal of the school until he took a position at the School Board Office as a Director of Instruction. After Mr. Owen, a number of people took up the principalship of Bonner including Mr. S. Smyth, Mr. R. Rodman, Mr. P. Alexander; Miss E. J. Milne made history by becoming the School District’s first female Secondary principal. While Miss Milne was the principal, the school changed from a junior secondary school to a middle school enrolling grades 7 and 8. When Miss Milne moved to a District position, Mr. H. S. Jawanda took over the principalship and had extensive involvement in the renovation/rebuilding of the school.
Most of the George Bonner Middle School building was demolished at the beginning of July 2005 and rebuilt to include a two-story classroom wing with an atrium, a stunning multi-purpose room with theatre seating for over 300, a library, a drama room and change rooms. The part of the building that was not demolished has received a seismic upgrade and extensive renovations. It is a beautiful building serving the educational needs of south-end students enrolled in grade 6, 7 and 8.