North Vancouver School District
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Specialty academies on the rise at North Shore schools

January 31, 2019

​By Jane Seyd, North Shore News

Almost 1,100 students on the North Shore are spending at least parts of their school days learning skills not found in everyday classrooms – from how to plié, parry and play lacrosse to digital animation and robotics. The students make up growing numbers of high school students enrolled in specialty academies in North and West Vancouver school districts. This year there are just under 600 students enrolled in 11 specialty academies in North Vancouver, while approximately 500 students are enrolled in 15 academies in West Vancouver.

Students enrolled in academies pay fees for specialized in-depth instruction offered during certain blocks in their regular school timetable. In North Vancouver, the specialty academies now include the Artists for Kids program, basketball, dance, the digital media academy, a “lite” introductory version of the digital media offering, as well as academies in field hockey, hockey, lacrosse, outdoor education, soccer and volleyball. Basketball is one of the most popular academies in North Vancouver, with more than 100 students registered. Soccer and volleyball academies both have more than 70 students registered as well. Registration for academies has grown by about 100 students in North Vancouver in the past three years.

Academy programs are also attracting the interest of international students, said Michael Kee, district principal in North Vancouver, with 33 international students currently registered.

Three more areas – rowing, ski racing and rugby – are also being eyed for possible academies in the future.

Photo: NVSD Outdoor Education Academy

West Vancouver is also adding to its roster of academies, with 15 academies currently running, including four separate travelling hockey programs and two more academies – engineering and kickboxing – approved for the next school year. Programs in West Vancouver range from robotics to dance to environmental science and animation.

“We’ve got healthy numbers in all our programs,” said Diane Nelson, director of instruction.

Those include 75 students in hockey, 85 in robotics and 32 in fencing. “We’ll be up from that next year,” she said.

In the case of fencing, “we’re actually getting families moving to the North Shore to attend our school,” she said.

The cost of attending specialized school academies ranges considerably, from a few hundred dollars a year for some arts programs to others costing thousands of dollars. In West Vancouver, costs for typical academies can range from between $200 to $525 per month, said Nelson. Nelson said there is some assistance available for families who can’t afford academy costs. In some cases, West Vancouver parents whose own children have benefited from programs have donated money specifically to provide financial assistance.

Registration for North Vancouver academies is open until March 1. Information nights for academies are continuing this month with sessions for lacrosse Feb. 4 at 7 p.m., for outdoor education Feb. 7 at 6 p.m.

Information sessions for West Vancouver academies will be held Feb. 5 and 6 from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m.