North Vancouver school district OKs two new academies

A whole new group of high school students will be dancing their way or shooting the puck towards graduation next year after two new sports academies were approved by the North Vancouver school district.

The school board has approved a new dance academy at Windsor, in partnership with Seymour Dance, for grades eight to 12.

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Trustees also approved an elite hockey academy for Grade 10 students at Sutherland secondary in partnership with the North Shore Winter Club.

The board has also given approval in principle to a basketball academy at Seycove secondary in the future, but has deferred the start date of that program.

The new academies, which combine intense athletic training with regular academic courses, will be in addition to several sports academies already running in North Vancouver. Those include a hockey skills academy and soccer academy at Windsor and a volleyball academy at Sutherland.

The district also runs a studio arts academy at Carson Graham secondary and a digital media academy at Argyle.

Mark Jefferson, assistant superintendent, says the school district has been "fairly aggressive" in developing these kinds of specialized programs over the past five years.

"These are exciting opportunities for students," said Jefferson.

The academies allow local schools to connect with students in the areas they are passionate about, he said.

For the school district, the academies can also be a way to maintain enrolment and even lure students from other areas of the Lower Mainland to North Vancouver schools, especially those in the eastern part of the school district, which tends to have lower enrolments.

Currently about 400 students are enrolled in the district's existing sports academies. That could go up by as much as 100 students once the new academies are up and running, said Jefferson.

Students in the sports academies take part in intensive athletic training in the afternoons instead of regular PE classes. Fees for the academies - which are run on a break-even basis - range from about $155 per month to $250 per month. The fees go to pay for coaches and other extra resources.

School officials anticipate the new dance academy, run in partnership with Seymour Dance, a Royal Academy of Dance school, could take 40 to 50 students from grades 8 to 12.

The elite hockey school - designed for 15-year-old Grade 10 students - could probably accommodate 18 to 20 students, according to a staff report. The cost for the elite hockey school will be higher than that of most other sports academies at $1,350 per month.

The basketball academy would be geared to between 30 and 60 students in grades 8 to 12, if it is eventually approved. According to a staff report, proponents of the program are still pursuing a partnership agreement with either the Parkgate Recreation Centre or Tseil-Waututh First Nation for use of their facilities.

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