Students in the Vernon School District who wish to pursue their love of winter sports will now be able to do so as part of their education.
Trustees have given their approval to the Snowsport Academy on a one-year trial basis, starting in September 2014.
At Tuesday’s district board meeting, Open Door principal Mike Bell and VLearn teacher Rod Peters presented details about the academy, which will allow students to participate in Nordic skiing, downhill skiing or freestyle skiing during the day, while still being able to participate in a full course load.
“It’s to help the students with the three ski clubs to continue their learning as well as their passion for skiing,” said Bell. “So we are asking the board to support us to move forward with an academy for our youth to be able to train in daylight in their chosen winter discipline.
“And I want to commend Rod Peters, who has worked hard to convince people to support this group — without your efforts, we wouldn’t be here tonight.”
The Okanagan Interior Snowsport Academy will work in conjunction with the Sovereign Lake Nordic Club, the Vernon Ski Club and the Silver Star Freestyle Club, along with stakeholders School District 22, Pacific Sport and Silver Star Mountain Resort.
“They all have strong athletes who are striving for provincial and national levels,” said Peters. “We have the high-performance program at VSS and French immersion at Seaton, and this is a program so kids can stay at their home schools.
“This will create sport-specific training and educational opportunities for students committed to excel in their snow sport.
“Also, we have an incredible facility here at Silver Star, and we want to train them and support them at their various levels. A lot of these kids are missing a lot of school while they train, so by putting them all under one umbrella, we can ease the strain.”
The academy will provide a common timetable, where skiers can train Tuesdays and Thursdays, minimizing the effect on their schooling.
“Some students currently have to decide between skiing and French immersion, but by coordinating some of their schedules we can make this work for them to be able to do both,” said Peters.
District superintendent Joe Rogers will undertake an analysis of the academy for board review by January 2015.
“The issue is really about missed school days and can the kids keep up and is it working for them,” he said. “At the moment, most of these kids leave their home school to go to the high-performance program at VSS, so they are losing a lot of kids from home schools.
“And the success rate will likely be higher than usual because these are motivated kids.”
Parents and students are invited to an information night Jan. 21 at 7 p.m. at Vernon secondary school, where teachers and principals from all of the district’s academies will be present to answer questions.