Montreal elementary school gets its own skatepark

Saint-Louis-de-Gonzague in the Plateau-Mont-Royal borough is the first Montreal elementary school to have a skatepark in its schoolyard.

Grade 6 teacher's passion for skateboarding helps bring sport to students

Teacher Marie-Émilie Gagné with her students and budding skateboarders, Sey-Aube, left, Joséphine and Arthur. (Anne-Louise Despatie/Radio-Canada)

Marie-Émilie Gagné, a Montreal elementary school teacher and avid skateboarder, finally got her wish.

The Grade 6 teacher will be able to practise her sport with students on obstacles adapted to their level at the elementary school where she teaches, Saint-Louis-de-Gonzague in the Plateau-Mont-Royal borough.

It is the first Montreal elementary school to have a skatepark.

"I wanted a skatepark to give my extracurricular [skateboard] lessons and also for the children to have a safe place to practise on obstacles for beginners to allow them to grow," Gagné, who regrets the lack of parks in the city for new skateboarders, said.

At 35, Gagné took up a friend's dare to try skateboarding — which made its debut at the Tokyo Olympics — and quickly made connections between the sport and education.

"Values like perseverance, self-confidence and cooperation are also found at school," she said. "I thought, 'Why not make a skateboarding extracurricular and relate those values to a sport that is, for me, very complete?'"

It took three years of procedures and formalities before the young skaters could soar.

Saint-Louis-de-Gonzague students are taking advantage of the park before the city sees heavy snowfalls. (Anne-Louise Despatie/Radio-Canada)

In total, the project cost $31,000, including $6,000 paid by the Plateau-Mont-Royal borough.

The Centre de services scolaires de Montréal (CSSDM) had to revise the initial bids because of the increase in price of materials. A late delivery of materials at the end of November also set the project back.

For security reasons, the service centre needed to wait until students had a pedagogical day on Nov. 25 to start construction.

But students and parents say it was worth the wait.

Joséphine, a student at Saint-Louis-de-Gonzague who enjoys gliding on her skateboard, compared her elementary school to those that have sports programs.

"For us, it's as if we were a skateboard school because we have a skatepark and we have lessons," she said.

Arthur, another student at the school, says he's thrilled about the park.

"It's cool because you can come skate on weekends, and it gives you more space to do tricks," he said.

The skatepark was built on Nov. 25. (Anne-Louise Despatie/Radio-Canada)

Within days, the schoolyard was drawing attention in the neighbourhood, said Monique Fournier, a Saint-Louis-de-Gonzague parent and president of the school governing board.

The parents of the school governing board were persuaded to invest in the skateboard park.

"It's already a project that has made people happy," said Fournier.

"I came by on Saturday and Sunday, and I had the pleasure of seeing small families and children on scooters trying out the skatepark," she said. "It convinced me that it was a good idea and that it met a need in the end."

Based on reporting by Radio-Canada's Anne-Louise Despatie