Hockey players could attend school at Columbia Falls next year

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Columbia Falls High School could have about 19 hockey players from the Whitefish Hockey Academy attend school here next year.

The School District 6 board Monday night didn’t take any formal action on the matter, but board members were generally supportive of the idea, even if it does cause a few problems.

The hockey team would be made up of junior and senior players from across the U.S. They would come with a liaison that would help them with their studies and would stay with host families in the district. The hockey season runs from late November through April, noted principal Scott Gaiser. The students would boost enrollment at the high school and would qualify the school for state aid just like any other student, Gaiser noted.

Some athletes would finish out the year at Columbia Falls, but some seniors would likely opt out to graduate at their hometown schools. It’s a system that hockey clubs around the U.S. and Canada now use to develop young players. They would play and practice at the Stumptown Ice den in Whitefish.

One caveat is the players would have a schedule to accommodate practice — they’d get out of school at sixth period, Gaiser noted.

The Academy approached Whitefish High School about a year ago, but the idea wasn’t endorsed by its board.

“I think there will be problems,” said vice chair Dean Chisholm. “But I don’t think that’s a reason not to do something.”

He noted the district was about creating opportunities for students, whether they were residents or not.

Board President Jill Rocksund said she was on the fence on the matter and wanted assurances that host families would have power of attorney over a student if there was an injury or an incident at school.

Superintendent Steve Bradshaw said he would find out the answers to her legal concerns. As a superintendent in Sitka, Alaska, he noted his district hosted Russian students every year, so he had experience in the matter.

He also noted that if there is a disciplinary problem, the players would be subject to the same standards as any other student.

In short, if they break the rules, they would face expulsion in front of the school board.

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