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Three more academies planned

Trustees to vote next week on whether to proceed with lacrosse, Sustainable Earth and film production programs

The Delta school district could have three new academies this year.

School trustees are to vote at a closed-door meeting Tuesday on proposals to add a lacrosse academy at Delta Secondary, a Sustainable Earth academy at South Delta Secondary and a film production academy at the former Delta Manor Elementary site in Ladner.

The three additions would bring the growing list of specialty academies the district has started in recent years to 10.

"The thing about academies is that typically teachers come forward with ideas, but in the case of lacrosse, it was the community that approached us. I've also worked with a teacher on it," said Teresa Phillips, the district's vice principal of specialty, choice and academy programs.

The lacrosse academy at DSS, where there's also a dance academy, will be open to male and female students from grades 9 to 12. The two blocks on the students' timetables will involve practice at the Holly Park turf field as well as Sportstown in Richmond, which is a covered facility.

Saying it would be ideal for Delta to also have a covered multi-sport facility, Phillips noted, "The nice thing about the academies is we tend to use the corporation's (of Delta) facilities and private facilities. We use them when they're underutilized during the day, the soccer fields, the turf fields, the rinks."

The lacrosse academy would follow the lead of a similar program at Claremont Secondary in Victoria.

She said there are many opportunities to get scholarships in field lacrosse and that students in the Delta program would attend recruiting tournaments in the U.S.

Phillips noted the film production academy is seen as a natural extension of an acting academy already at SDSS in Tsawwassen.

The board will also consider a proposal to move both the film and acting academies to Delta Manor in Ladner, which is currently used mainly as administrative space but has plenty of available room to house the academies.

Noting Delta Manor is ideal in that it's centrally located, Phillips said having the two academies located there would make it easier for students attending Ladner and North Delta schools to also take part in the film and acting academies.

As far as the Sustainable Earth academy, a promotional brochure by the district notes it would be open to students in grades 8 to 12 who would examine sustainability issues through field trips, guest speakers and action projects.

In addition to the dance and acting academies already in place, the district also has a baseball academy at Sands, hockey academies at SDSS and Burnsview, a softball academy at Seaquam and a soccer academy at SDSS.

Not all academies have been a success, however.

The district started a golf academy at Seaquam, but it ran only one year because it didn't have the required number of participants.

Phillips said that program is still available as an independent directed study for the few students still taking part.

The school district also partnered with the Vancouver Whitecaps a couple of years ago on a soccer academy at North Delta Secondary, but that relationship fizzled and the program was cancelled. Saying the Whitecaps no longer want to take part in school partnerships, Phillips noted a problem with that program was the soccer team only wanted players to attend NDSS, which meant students in other schools couldn't take part.

The district had also examined the possibility of starting an equestrian academy but it never got off the ground. However, students can take part in equestrian studies as part of their independent directed learning, noted Phillips.

The school board also looked into the possibility of starting a hockey academy at English Bluff Elementary in Tsawwassen, but scrapped the idea after an initial consultation with parents found a mostly negative reaction.

'"If students are really passionate about a particular area they can discuss it with their school and delve into a particular sport or fine arts program. They can work with the teacher and develop an independent directed study and get credit for that. These kinds of things are all about meeting individual student's needs and personalized learning we're trying to make available," added Phillips.

The Delta school district has heavily involved itself with academies in recent years to slow an enrollment decline, which in turn has had negative consequences for the school board's operating budget. The board has already been warned by staff to expect another big deficit this year.

The school board has also started "traditional schools" at Pebble Hill and Heath elementaries, but those aren't fee-paying academies.