March 1, 2020
by Jane Seyd, Andy Prest, North Shore News
An elite hockey program recently cut loose by the West Vancouver school district is in the process of signing a deal with the North Vancouver School District to operate from Seycove Secondary next year.
North Vancouver school trustees endorsed the plan to take on the program “in principle” at their regular board meeting Tuesday evening.
If details are worked out between Spartan Sport Group, which operates the elite hockey academy, and school district officials, the program would begin at Seycove in September.
The program would bring the addition of 76 elite hockey players aged 13 to 17 the school’s current enrolment of 521 (which includes 48 international students) and with that an estimated $700,000 in per-pupil funding into school district coffers.
The hockey school would continue to operate its on-ice training at both the Canlan Ice Sports centre in North Vancouver and Hollyburn Country Club in West Vancouver.
More students could mean a greater selection of all course offerings at Seycove, assistant superintendent Chris Atkinson told trustees Tuesday night.
The West Van Warriors currently play in the Canadian Sport School Hockey League, which features elite school-based academy teams from across Western Canada.
Nathan Fischer, academy director and assistant coach of the program, described the move to Seycove as “an exciting move for our student athletes” adding a number of North Vancouver students are enrolled in the program.
The Spartan proposal includes the possibility of developing a girls’ elite hockey team at some point in the future.
But not everyone at Seycove is happy with the pace with which the decision is moving forward.
Tree Cleland, a member of the Seycove parent advisory council, said parents at the school were given no information in advance about what the addition of the elite hockey program could mean to the rest of the school.
Cleland said parents at the school “do want to welcome these students” but feel blindsided by the quick decision.
Chief among parents’ concerns are a desire to understand the problems that led to West Vancouver severing its ties with the program and assurances those won’t be repeated, she said.
Last month, a letter to parents in West Vancouver referred to “concerns about academic success, and other challenges such as student programming and scheduling” as reasons for the split, as well as enrolment pressures.
On Tuesday, trustee Mary Tasi-Baker asked that academic and counselling support would be made a condition of approving the program, adding behavioural issues linked to the hockey program had been a focus of extensive discussion among trustees. That wasn’t supported by the majority of the board, however.
Cleland said Thursday the lack of transparency around the decision is worrying to parents, who have scheduled a special PAC meeting for Monday night to discuss the issue.
So far, most of the discussion on the issue among school trustees has apparently taken place at closed-door meetings and the school district has released relatively few details about the elite hockey program, including any budget information and anticipated fees.
During its tenure in West Vancouver, parents have paid fees upwards of $22,000 a year.
Atkinson told trustees those details will be included in a final joint venture agreement between Spartan Sport Group and the school district.
This season the academy fielded four teams in four separate divisions in the CSSHL: Midget Prep, Elite 15, Bantam Prep and Bantam Varsity.