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MONTREAL, AUGUST 31, 2004-When classes began at the English Montreal School Board (EMSB) today, a unique new program linking pedagogy and sports was formally launched at Holy Cross Elementary School in St. Laurent. EMSB Chairman Dominic Spiridigliozzi, Director General Antonio Lacroce and Borough Mayor Alan DeSousa were among those on hand for a special opening ceremony.

The program, for students in Cycle III (Grades 5 and 6), will offer a quality education and the opportunity for elite athletes to develop their skills in ice hockey. It is hoped that other sports can be added in the years to come.

At the present time, 27 students are registered, including one girl (Grade 5 student Alexandria Kiss Rusk). This program is being offered to elite students in the sport – students recognized as having attained a certain skill level as determined by the West Island Hockey Academy and the Lac St. Louis Lions hockey organization. The latter is based in the West Island, but represents the territory of the EMSB. Head coach Shawn Anderson is a former National Hockey League defenceman. Candidates will be expected to maintain a high academic standard in order to be considered for, and to continue within the program.

Instructional hours will meet Ministry of Education requirements. Modifications will be made to the daily timetable of these students to permit them to receive intensive instruction in basic hockey skills after school hours. The responsibility of such instruction will be assumed by the Lions and take place at the Raymond Bourque Arena on Thimens Blvd., very close to the school.

The project is being supported financially by the participants and their sponsors. All transportation costs are being assumed by the parents.

The Commission scolaire de Montréal (CSDM) initiated a similar program last year at École St. Arsène, offering a number of sport options.

An elementary school with a Student-Athlete program, is a partnership between the School Board, the school, and the sport federation(s). The principles on which this Student-Athlete program is based are as follows:

  • The school board, school, sport federations, and local community clubs concerned must recognize the primary importance of the athlete's academic success while he/she is specializing in his/her sport.
  • The school must develop an adapted academic program and must organize the student-athletes within their cycle (school grade level).
  • The Sport Federation and local community clubs are responsible to show that the student-athlete(s) is/are deserving of such a program in order to help them in the development of their sport and to select the student-athlete(s) by using the parameters described by their plan;
  • The School Board and the Sport Federation have the right to limit the number of Student-Athlete programs recognized in their Administrative Regions so as to ensure the establishment and maintenance of a program that requires a critical number of participants for the program to be viable.
  • The project follows the same principles as the Sports Études Project at the secondary level, which is now in its third year at the EMSB’s Lester B. Pearson High School in Montreal North.

    The student-athlete project includes four hours and 35 minutes per day doing academic courses. The school day begins earlier – at 8:07 a.m. instead of 8:30 a.m. Lunch is from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. Students are bussed to their different club centres for their practices (1:30 to 2 p.m.) and parents pick their children up after practice.

    Schools form a partnership with each club. Contracts are signed by the student, another by the parent and a third contract by the club. Each group has criteria that they must respect.

    Robert Nelson, an EMSB parent who has spearheaded the project, hopes that once this is up and running planning can begin to expand it to the Secondary level. Parents seeking more details should call the West Island Hockey Academy at 636-5624 or e-mail:

    Michael J. Cohen
    Communications and Marketing Specialist
    English Montreal School Board
    Tel: (514) 483-7200 ext. 7243
    Fax: (514) 483-7213