In 1991, I was a grade 9 student at Abbotsford Christian Secondary School.

I bused to school every day with the other Chilliwack and Agassiz kids, had a blue top locker in the hallway that now leads to the mechanics shop (my locker combination was 27-54-39), and spent most of my free time making mixed tapes, babysitting, and watching reruns of Saved by the Bell and Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. That year for Christmas my brothers and I got a coveted Super Nintendo that cost approximately $250.

I had no clue that same year, the Abbotsford Christian School Society purchased a 10-acre parcel down the road from where I went to school for $800,000 and that a short year and a bit later, they would open a new elementary school there.

The ACS Clayburn Hills Elementary campus opened its doors at 3939 Old Clayburn Road in September 1992. I can only imagine the planning, organizing, and hard work that went into making that happen in such a short amount of time. The best is when our long timers—you know, the people who lived and breathed our school’s history in real timetell the stories of how it all went down.

When I came back to ACS in 2011 as a staff member, I was astonished to learn of the many versions, iterations, and updates the school has undergone in its 71-year history. As elementary principal since 2020, the story of our elementary campus is what I’m most interested in.

A Filing Cabinet of Community

In an effort to clean out a drawer in my filing cabinet and empty some old folders, I recently took a dive into some of the old administrative files from former principals. I read through old staff memos, staff bulletins, staff meeting minutes, board and education team reports, Connect, Elementary Express, and Messenger updates from past principals, Henry Contant, Ed Noot, Dave Loewen, and Roy van Eerden.

A few highlights:

  • Staffing updates across the decades
  • Similar parking lot etiquette and traffic reminders from every principal
  • A staff memo of the Clayburn and Heritage Staff Wedding when the two campuses merged in 2004.
  • Story after story of people living in community; helping each other move, praying for one another, celebrating weddings and babies, mourning illness and death, laughter and funny anecdotes…all of it, again and again.

And this made me think back again to our school’s history and the progression of our elementary campus.

Date ACS Elementary History How Long Ago (in years)
September 1953 Abbotsford Christian School opened grades K-7 at its first campus on the Mission Highway. 71
May 1985 Heritage Elementary campus on the Mission Highway a fire that burned two-thirds of the school. The school community rallied around the devastation and a new school was erected within a year. 39
May 1991 The ACS Society purchased a 10-acre parcel on Old Clayburn Road for $800,000 and plans for construction began immediately. 33
September 1992 The Clayburn Hills campus opened at 3939 Old Clayburn as ACS’ second K-7 campus with 352 students and 25 staff. Built into the plans was a future addition of more classrooms, the building was designed to serve 425-450 students. 32
September 2000 The first year of Joyful Sounds, a noon-hour choir club led by Ms. Sandra Elgersma. 24
September 2001 The ACS preschool program opened its doors for the first time at the Clayburn Hills campus. 23
Summer 2003 The playground (the dome, swings and monkey bars) was installed. 21
October 2003 Construction started on three additional classrooms. 21
2004 The grade 6 and 7 classes moved over to the new middle school addition at the secondary campus. Heritage Elementary campus closed its doors and the staff and students joined Clayburn Hills Elementary campus to become ACS Elementary for preschool-grade 5 students. 20
2008 The Lysa Terpstra Memorial Playground (our Big Toy play structure) was installed. 16
2017 We saw increased desire for Christian education and to allow for enrolment growth we added two new portables to the elementary campus, just north of the new wing as well as a wheelchair accessible ramp to the playground. 7
2019 The outdoor climbing wall was installed. 5
2020 Due to continued enrolment growth the grade 5 classes moved to our expanding middle school and 3939 Old Clayburn became a preschool-grade 4 campus. 4

Wrinkles and Creaks Everywhere

What surprises me the most is how fast time has gone by. The Clayburn Hills campus is 32 years old. (I am in complete and utter denial that it’s been 32 years since I was in grade 10; how is this even possible? After all, I’m only 35 😊). Perhaps unsurprising after 32 years is that we’re starting to see the wrinkles and the creaks in our lovely school.

Seth Bakker, our campus vice principal, spends more time than he should triaging plugged toilets, looking at jimmied door locks, checking roof leaks, resetting the boilers, tightening loose play structure bolts, fixing bells, replacing bulbs, and solving a myriad of aging building problems with the help of Tym Berger, Jim McGrail, and Warren Andrews. We know it’s time to do some upkeep to keep this campus operational for another 30 years or more.

What Am I To Do?

As people, we are deeply rooted in the stories, traditions, and communities to which we belong. What I love about ACS’ story is that is that it isn’t a people story. Every time, it’s a God’s faithfulness story. Philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre said, “I can only answer the question, ‘What am I to do?’ if I can answer the prior question, ‘Of which story do I find myself a part?’”(After Virtue: A Study in Moral Theory, 1981).

I hope I’ve given you a taste of the ACS story of which you find yourself a part. How you answer the question, “What am I to do?” in the context of the needs at our campus, is up to you.

However, as we seek to fix, upgrade, and revive our elementary campus, I humbly ask you to consider joining us in this season of financial giving and community building at ACS Elementary, as we continue to experience God’s faithfulness and tell His story for generations to come.