'It's so overwhelming': TDSB unveils plaque, renames school gymnasium for drowned student Jeremiah Perry

A Toronto school unveiled a plaque and renamed the gym at C.W. Jefferys Collegiate Institute in honour of a former student who drowned during a field trip to Algonquin Park.

Perry was found dead after disappearing in Big Trout Lake during school trip in July 2017

Jeremiah Perry's mother, Melissa, broke down in tears after unveiling the plaque that honours her late son. (Oliver Walters/CBC)

A Toronto school unveiled a plaque and renamed its gymnasium in honour of a former student who drowned during a field trip to Algonquin Park.

Jeremiah Perry, 15, died during a week-long canoe trip to the provincial park in July 2017. The trip was organized by C.W. Jefferys Collegiate Institute.

On Friday, students, members of Perry's family and dignitaries from the Toronto District School Board gathered to remember the teen.

"It's a painful day for me," his mother, Melissa Perry, said through tears. 

"I miss my son dearly and he will always, always forever be in my heart."

She unveiled both the new plaque and the sign over the gymnasium door, both times breaking down in tears afterward.

The gym at C.W. Jefferys Collegiate has been renamed for Jeremiah Perry. (Oliver Walters/CBC)

"It's so overwhelming," she said as she looked around the gym. "His name will live on. It's not easy for me to stand in this gym right now."

The teen's friend, Boran Balci, said it was "so nice" of the school to pay tribute to Perry. Balci was on the canoe trip and in the lake with his friend when he went under the water.

"I felt his hands under me," he said. "I had a life jacket, but I couldn't do anything."

He wouldn't continue speaking about the moment Jeremiah went missing. But he wanted people to know his friend "was a good kid."

"I want people to remember he was always making people happy."

Teen did not pass swim test

Jeremiah Perry did not pass a swim test before going on a school trip. The TDSB has since updated its safety protocols. (Submitted by the Perry family)

Perry was swimming in Big Trout Lake on July 5 when he went beneath the water and disappeared. Police later recovered his body after a large scale search of the area.

It was later revealed by the TDSB that Perry did not pass a swim test before going on the trip.

The board said that 15 of the 32 children on the trip had failed their swim tests.

Perry's death prompted the TDSB to introduce new rules for field trips, including mandatory second swim tests at the site of the trip. The results of those swim tests will also be seen by more people to verify the results. 

Investigators have charged a teacher at the school, Nicholas Mills, with criminal negligence causing death. He remains on home assignment, said John Malloy, the TDSB's director of education.