Students at Churchill High School and Collège Churchill will soon be adding hockey tape to their school supply list. The school will be introducing a hockey academy for Grade 7 and 8 students this fall.

"People want more time to develop their craft, and if we can get kids who have a passion for a sport and then tie that with an education, we're going to get students who are really engaged and involved in their school," said vice-principal Dominic Zagari. "That's the perfect student from the administration's point of view."

Zagari has helped plan the academy from the beginning. He said the school is perfect for an academy because it's centrally located in Winnipeg.

The 22 to 28 students will go to the Southdale Community Centre arena in the morning. Then, they'll get bused to the school in time for an 11 a.m. class, and will spend the rest of the day at school.

But this isn't a novice program, Zagari said.

"We are trying to become a Hockey Canada certified academy, and one of their stipulations is students have to be on a registered hockey club," he said. "So it's not a learn-to-skate program that we're having here. It's kids who are already members of hockey teams and community clubs, and we're helping them develop their skills."

The school has English and French-immersion classes, but the 141 hours of morning on-ice instruction will be in English.

Students who choose to go into the academy won't fall behind in their school work, Zagari said.

"We're bridging the gap between education and sports," he said. 

Some parents have voiced concern that students might fall behind, but Zagari said that's not an issue. Parents can bring up their concerns at an information session on March 9 at 7 p.m., but Zagari said he doesn't see student balance being a problem.

"The thing people have to remember is this isn't a team — this is skill development, so they'll still be a part of their community clubs playing for their teams on evenings and on weekends," he said.

"As far as demands go, it would be no different than the demands of a physical education course, because that's what this is replacing."