Hockey has finally made the journey to Sooke’s lone middle school.
Starting with the 2011/12 school year, grade six and seven students at Journey Middle School are eligible to enroll in the hockey academy program that takes place twice a week during school hours for academic credit.
“There’s no kind of tryout or anything like that, any kid just putting on skates could belong to that program — boy or girl, regardless of ability,” said Journey vice principal Wayne Kelly.
Kelly, together with Ross Elm who is the hockey instructor as well as the Grade 6 teacher at Journey, came up with the idea two years ago.
“Sooke is a big area where kids play lacrosse, soccer, and they’re involved so we started talking about that,” said Kelly. The reason it took this long to make a reality is because there is a long process of getting the paperwork completed with the board as well as Hockey Canada who has to approve the program.
The instructor has to be a teacher at the school, and also has to have the right mixture of hockey background and skills. Fortunately for Journey, Kelly said Elm played junior A hockey and was the perfect candidate.
“Ross had to take some course work to get all certified up, and we had to secure the ice time and then when you have all that stuff you can apply to the board for approval.”
On Mondays and Wednesdays, the 30-odd students in the program go to the Sooke arena to practice, and the rest take science with Elm’s partner teacher. For the hockey-inclined kids, their ice team is in lieu of another non-core course like phys-ed or cooking.
The hockey academy so far is only available for grade six and seven students because Kelly called it a “litmus test” to ensure there was enough interest in the program before fully committing. The school hopes to extend it to grade eight next year.
“If we don’t have that there’s going to be a lot of squawking from the parents,” said Kelly, laughing. “It’s a nice feed up to Edward Milne because they have their hockey program.”
He added this addition to the middle school is particularly important because in previous years, Journey has lost students to other schools in the district.
“We had five kids that were at the Spencer (hockey) academy last year, and their parents live right here. They would have loved to keep them here and send them through to Edward Milne,” said Kelly.
To apply, there is a separate package for both kids and their parents to fill out. The applicant’s grades are also looked at to ensure they won’t struggle academically. There is also a $700 fee although the school said there are subsidies available for parents who may be struggling financially.
“Our philosophy here is anybody, as long as you’re keen, as long as you’ve got the desire and really want to be part of that program and your parents support it — you’re in.”