Students from the Abbotsford Senior Secondary drumline helped greet guests, dignitaries and graduates from decades past as the newly improved school’s official opening ceremony took place Friday.
After a $45-million partial replacement and seismic upgrade, Abbotsford Senior is now entering a new chapter in its long history.
The school, which has a capacity of 1,100 students, features a dramatic three-storey central rotunda that branches off to new classrooms and workshops for the school’s trades and technical programs.
Wood beams from the original school have been retained as seating in the new rotunda.
“It’s been a long process,” said Lance McDonald, principal of the school.
While the new facility opened in September, McDonald said it was great to hold the ceremony in March, now that most of the finishing touches are completed.
“Having it (the ceremony) in the rotunda made it extra special because of the fact that it is such a great space for kids to learn in.”
The old school was not completely torn down. The gymnasiums, music area, community theatre and some classrooms were retained.
There is also a new heritage foyer that celebrates past graduating students, dating back to the 1950s.
“We now have our own little Abbotsford Senior Secondary Museum just down the hall,” said McDonald.
Guest speakers at the event included Abbotsford Board of Education Chair Cindy Schafer, student speaker Elena Giuchici and Abbotsford-West MLA and former student Mike de Jong, who compared the school system to the navy.
“A great navy always has a flagship. And since the 1950s at least, Abbotsford Senior Secondary School has been the flagship for our navy, our educational navy,” said de Jong.
Also being celebrated was the official opening of the on-site Abbotsford Community Library, funded by a $4-million contribution from the City of Abbotsford, which brings students and the community together to share its extensive collection and resources.
The school also hosts the Sweeney Neighbourhood Learning Centre which will offer a wide range of programs and services through a partnership between the school district, municipality and agencies such as the City’s Parks, Recreation and Culture department, Fraser Health and the United Way of the Fraser Valley.
“It’s really a great honour to have our family’s name associated with this,” said Ron Sweeney, former Abby Senior teacher, former city councillor and community supporter. He and his wife Mary attended the celebration and helped cut the opening ribbon.
A commemorative plaque was also unveiled at the ceremony.
Located at 2329 Crescent Way, the school will also have its sports fields upgraded.
The Abby Panther Field is a new, all-weather turf field while the revamped grass field will be called the Barry Stewart Field, in honour of the long-time coach and teacher of 35 years.