Calgary's National Sport School to close, looks to join a different school division

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CALGARY, United Kingdom — Calgary's board of education will close the National Sport School that has produced Olympic and Paralympic champions for 26 years.

The Calgary Olympic Development Association, now WinSport, and the board of education (CBE) jointly established the school in 1994 to help athletes both pursue sport at an international level and graduate from high school.

CBE trustees voted Wednesday to shut down the school June 30, 2021. 

WinSport will negotiate with a different school division to save the institution.

"WinSport supports this decision and commends the CBE for providing clarity on this issue so that we can begin negotiations with the Palliser School Division on a plan to secure the long-term future of the school at WinSport," the organization said in a statement. 

"This will ensure the NSS will continue to support Canadian student-athletes for years to come.

Alumni include Olympic champions Kyle Shewfelt (gymnastics), Jennifer Botterill, Carla MacLeod and Jocelyne Larocque (hockey), Kaillie Humphries (bobsled), Brady Leman (ski cross) and six-time Paralympic swim champion Jessica Sloan.

Two dozen NSS alum competed in the 2018 Winter Olympics.

Teachers and administration provide an environment in which students can access and complete the necessary coursework to graduate.

The CBE has said it allocates $1.8 million annually to the NSS.

Closing the school and sending the roughly 200 students to a nearby high school of 1,100 students, or dispersing them to schools in their respective districts, saves $1 million, according to the board.

The NSS operated out of a Calgary high school in a school-within-a-school model before moving to a WinSport office tower at Canada Olympic Park in 2011.

“We look forward to working with the CBE to provide a smooth transition for the school to the Palliser School Division and to preserve the opportunity for young student-athletes to achieve academic and athletic success at WinSport,” vice-president and chief financial officer Phil Graham said in statement.

NSS students have access to WinSport's hockey rinks, ski slope, halfpipe, terrain park and a gymnastics club, as well as dryland training facilities and sport-science services at the Canadian Sport Institute.

They also had use of the bobsleigh and luge sliding track before it closed last year awaiting a renovation.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 26, 2020.

The Canadian Press