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MONTREAL, MAY 30, 2001- The English Montreal School Board (EMSB) has launched a process which it hopes will lead to the establishment of a Sports-Études Program in one of its secondary schools for the 2002-2003 academic year.

At present, the only English school to offer such a program is John Rennie High School of the Lester B. Pearson School Board. In the French sector, the program has existed at several island of Montreal schools for a number of years.

Individual schools will now be invited to submit application forms for the program to the EMSB.

In the spring of 1999, the Ministry of Education published the document "Sports-Études au secondaire." It included an invitation to school boards to apply for Sports-Études status for one of their secondary schools. The development of athletes for professional sports, Olympic or world competitions rests with a sporting federation for each sport or discipline. The problem faced by these federations is that while most student-athletes enroll in their various programs, the demands of training usually result in a very high drop-out rate. Student-athletes at the Elite and Excellence levels are required to train several hours per day in order to maintain their level of performance. If improvement is expected, the intensity and duration of the training must increase. At the same time the demands of school are increasing, and faced with a choice, most opt in favor of concentrating on the demands of school.

For student athletes who wish to compete at a high level, a typical day often sees them getting up early in the morning for conditioning, rushing to school for a day of classes, heading home for an early supper and out for an evening of training. There is little time for homework nor any kind of social life. When tournaments and competitions arescheduled, the strain on the individuals can take on a severe toll.

About 20 years ago, this situation was addressed by a few schools in the francophone sector where joint ventures were developed between the Ministry of Education and the sport federations. The result of these joint ventures is the Sports-Études program. It is now a partnership of school board, school and sports federations, under the Ministry umbrella.

Once in a Sports-Études Program, students follow the regular Ministry curriculum in an accelerated manner. Typically a student must meet the requirements for a Secondary School Diploma in 60 to 75 percent of the designated time, leaving the remaining 25 to 40 percent time to pursue the athletic endeavor. The school schedule is organized so that the student-athletes finish their formal school day early each day, allowing sufficient time for training, study and tutoring. Programs are designed to be flexible, providing formal recuperation with teachers for students who may have missed school due to competitions or tournaments. Students may also have fallen behind academically for a variety of reasons and therefore require recuperation time with teachers. Coaches, academic advisors/guidance counsellors and teachers must work collaboratively to ensure that the student does not fall too far behind at school. When this occurs, students must trade off training time for a compulsory recuperation period. The focus of the program is always on developing student athletes, not to serve athletes who attend school.

A school may offer a Sports-Études program once the school board has signed an agreement with Quebec Sport Federation. Student athletes registered with the Federation are eligible to apply for admission to the school authorized to offer the Sports-Études program. The designated school must also establish its admission criteria, as well as other conditions which may apply. Only students who are registered and recognized in the categories of "espoir, elite, relève or excellence" with a federation can be admitted to the program. Students who cannot meet the rigorous standards could face removal from the program.

All Sports-Études programs are recognized by the Ministry under the Service des sports et de l'activité physique. Each recognized sport is organized into a sport federation which falls into a designated region. The Commission Sport et Loisir de L'est de L'île de Montréal and Commission Sportive Montréal-Concordia covers the EMSB territory. A number of federations in these regions have expressed a need for an anglophone Sports-Études program in one of the EMSB schools since the needs of anglophone student athletes from this territory are not being met. These students either continue to juggle school and training, obtain an inter-board agreement to attend John Rennie, attend a francophone Sports-Études program or quit the sport.

When fully implemented, a Sports-Études program in an EMSB school is expectd to have between 225 and 275 student-athletes in Secondary 1 through secondary 5 (Cycles 4 and 5). The larger numbers will be in Cycle 4. In the year that it begins the goal will be to target 32 students in Seondary I and II, gradually phasing the entire program in over four years.

Students will be required to apply to the program in order to be considered for admission. While no placement or entrance exam is envisioned, students must maintain an overall average of 70 percent and a 75 percent average in English, French and Math.

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