In 1986, I stepped into the role of elementary principal, and I was met with a daunting challenge issued by then ACS Board Chair, Jack Van Dyke: to fill the four vacant classrooms in our new elementary campus on the Abbotsford-Mission Highway.

Little did we anticipate that this newly rebuilt campus, erected after the devastation of an arsonist’s fire, would soon witness unprecedented growth.

By the mid-1990s, ACS had burgeoned from a modest two-campus system of over 400 students to a thriving three-campus institution serving over 1200 students, earning recognition as one of British Columbia’s largest independent schools.

Who wants to be the “Raspberry” Principal?

In November 1990, the Board approved plans to divide ACS into two elementary campuses for the upcoming school year, igniting a quest to establish unique identities for each.

A “name the school” contest ensued, yielding few submissions. In keeping with Abbotsford’s claim of being the berry capital of Canada, one proposal suggested “Raspberry Campus” and “Strawberry Campus,” with the reserved name of “Blueberry Campus” should ACS ever build another campus. I discreetly submitted “Clayburn Hills” and “Heritage Campus,” reflecting our local heritage. Eventually, these names were chosen and embraced by the community.

Another Milestone

September 19, 1991, marked a significant milestone as the ACS Society overwhelmingly voted (97%) in favour of constructing the $3.2 million Clayburn Hills campus. With over 300 elementary students housed in portables, the necessity of a second elementary campus was indisputable.

Five days later, the symbolic “Sod Turning Ceremony” launched the construction phase, signaling a new chapter in ACS’s history.

Labour Day Redefined

The conclusion of the 1991-92 school year witnessed the largest moving party imaginable. Amidst the hustle and bustle, contents from 12 portable classrooms, the school office, and a divided elementary library found their way into two colossal semi-trailers.

Labour Day 1992 took on a new significance as a formidable work party of parents, staff, students, board members, and volunteers unloaded four semi-trailers in a mere six hours. Thanks to meticulous planning and unwavering dedication, within four days, the Clayburn Hills staff and janitorial crew had unpacked, assembled, and readied the school to welcome students for the start of a new school year.

This event epitomized the power of a strong community effort and was a testament to the remarkable synergy I experienced as principal within the ACS community.

A Legacy of Community: Looking Ahead

I am filled with hope that this same sense of community spirit will rally around the Dream 1 Drive to upgrade the elementary campus, ensuring it continues to provide generations of students and families with Christian education.

Recalling the events that led to the establishment of a second elementary campus within just six years and the remarkable community effort that ensued, one can’t help but be grateful for the blessings that emerged from adversity.

Through adversity and growth, God remains faithful, and the ACS community remains a beacon of resilience and collaboration in shaping a brighter future for all.

Henry Contant served ACS for 21 years, first as secondary school teacher (1979-1986), then as elementary school principal (1986-1994), ending as development director (1994-2000).