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‘Closing it down will have catastrophic repercussions’: Calgary’s National Sport School faces uncertain future

Parents worried about possible ‘catastrophic repercussions’ if Calgary’s National Sport School were to close
WATCH: Parents are vowing to fight to keep Calgary’s National Sport School open. As Carolyn Kury de Castillo reports, the school’s students say they wouldn't be graduating without the programs that accommodate travelling athletes.

Students at the National Sport School in Calgary have schedules that are nothing like your average teenager. They travel for months at a time pursuing their sports dreams, and they credit the school for keeping their marks up.

“Honestly, without the school I would definitely not be graduating this year,” said luge athlete Jenna Smith at the school on Monday.

Max Stretch is a 17-year-old student who has specialized in ski jumping, who credits the school in keeping his grades high.  “It’s been very important for me. When I was in Grade 11 I was missing months of school at a time, and through the support of the school I was able to finish my studies with fairly excellent marks” Stretch said.

READ MORE: Canadian athletes concerned over what’s to come for Calgary sliding track

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The National Sport School has been located in a leased space at WinSport since 2011 but that lease is coming up for renewal, leaving some parents wondering if the school will be moved or closed.

Parents say the the current location is ideal because of the proximity to gyms and the ski hill.

Kevin Barr’s daughter is in Grade 10 at the National Sport School and travels to play golf.  He says smaller class sizes may make the school more costly to operate, but he says parents pay around $5,000 a year to cover the rent at WinSport.

Barr says he understands the province’s financial situation but closing or moving the school doesn’t make sense to him.

“I’m not convinced that they haven’t already made their final determination, and the process we’re going through it’s just lip service right now, because the CBE and the province feel there has to be some form of public consultation.

“But just closing it down will have catastrophic repercussions for a lot of the student athletes,” Barr said.

A spokesperson from WinSport says the organization would like to keep the school at the site.

In a statement to Global News on Monday the Calgary Board of Education said “The CBE has been proud to support high-performance student athletes as they pursue excellence in both their academic and athletic careers at the National Sport School.”

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The CBE would not release any more information in advance of the Monday-night parent meeting.

Barr worries that closing the school would end up dropping graduation rates.

“The Kenney government has  to try to do things to make things better for Albertans from a financial standpoint. This just does not make sense. We prioritize education in this province. Taking the student athletes out of the NSS is going to do nothing to promote that,” Barr said.

READ MORE: WinSport closes out sliding season amid funding uncertainty

Pete Verheyde is a grade 12 student who has been going to the National Sport School for four years and hopes it will continue to operate for the sake of younger students.

“I wouldn’t be able to graduate from high school since I’m training all the time for freestyle skiing. I go away for one or two months at a time and certain schools wouldn’t allow me to do that,” Verheyde said.

A meeting is being held Monday Nov. 18 at 6 p.m., to inform parents about the plans for the school.