The Abbotsford Virtual School, previously known as Philip Sheffield High School, hosted the second annual Philip Sheffield Lunch on May 14. Guests gathered for lunch and to honour the 89-year-old school.
For the past two years these events have been organized by the Philip Sheffield Lunch committee led by Christine Wiebe. Wiebe, Abbotsford Virtual School’s oldest graduate at age 75, was inspired to organize these luncheons after she discovered that the history of the school had never been documented.
“I love it,” she said. “The school has been vibrant and fulfilling to many, many lives over 89 years.”
On the traditional territory of the Sumas Matsqui First Nation, over 70 guests and dignitaries were greeted by students as they made their way to the gymnasium. Four school trustees were in attendance, including Stan Petersen, chair of the Abbotsford board of Education. As guests mingled, they enjoyed placemats depicting the theme “Then and Now” made by the younger students and a slideshow of old photographs.
One returning student was Ian Sibbald, who graduated in 1955. When asked how he felt about being back, he said, “Old.” Nevertheless, Sibbald was grateful to Abbotsford Virtual School for holding this event.
“There are a lot of people we haven’t seen in a long time,” he said.
He recounted memories of how he and his classmates would mock a science teacher with a heavy accent. Or how all the boys were afraid to ask the principal’s daughter out on a date. However, Sibbald’s favourite memory, by far, was meeting his wife at the school.
“We were in different grades, but we overlooked that and got together,” he said. “So now we’ve been married 62 years.”
Abbotsford Virtual School principal Brad Hutchinson paid homage to the school by stating that it “has been home to a great deal of educational innovation.”
The Abbotsford Virtual School continues to be “engaged in flexible learning programs,” such as “online courses, 3D printing, coding of robots and drones.”
Abbotsford Virtual School works with the largest number of students in the district. There are over 2,500 students from ages five to 85 enrolled.
After enjoying a meal, catered by Mama Michelle’s Kitchen, guests rose to observe the Royal Anthem. However, a technical glitch with the sound prompted Hutchinson to lead the crowd in singing God Save the Queen.
Guests then had the opportunity to get their picture taken, visit the school memorabilia area and receive a 3D printed magnet of the school.
The second annual “89 Years at the Same Address” came to a close with students past and present recognizing the school’s history, and the community feeling more connected.