By Ottawa Sportspage, for Louis-Riel Rebelles
With an $8.5-million expansion covering almost 20,000 square-feet, Louis-Riel high school has added a bright new 12-classroom wing for its Grade 7-8 students this school year.
For long-serving staff like Alain Dubuc, who began teaching at Louis-Riel several years before the launch of its avant-garde exploratory sports and sports-study initiatives in 2005, the addition is a physical representation of the spirit that’s been building for a long time at Louis-Riel.
“Bringing in those sports programs kind of gave the school a voice and a vision – something to build on and aim for,” recalls Dubuc. “For sure, this is something I wouldn’t have imagined back when I started here. There’s been a transformation, and the sports program’s played a big role. We just keep expanding and improving.”
Home to just a pair of Grade 7 and 8 classes in 2004, Louis-Riel now has 12. Despite being located in an older neighbourhood devoid of new housing developments, the Grade 7-8 student population has tripled to 280. Roughly three-quarters are registered in the exploratory sports program, which teaches the fundamentals to an active, healthy lifestyle by exposing Grade 7-8 students to a wide range of sports and activities.
Originally titled far more towards boys, the exploratory sports program now has a 50/50 split between male and female students thanks to initiatives to motivate girls to be active. From its start with traditional high school sports, the program (which becomes more specialized for Grade 9-12) has now grown to offer streams for just about every sport under the sun, alongside high-quality coaches.
“It’s really fun to look at all those numbers. They don’t lie,” smiles sports-study program coordinator Ken Levesque. “I think it says a lot about what we’re doing here.”
Active lifestyle a tonic for scholastic growth
Minimum grades and strong study habits must be maintained to stay in the sports programs, but Dubuc observes that students seem to be more engaged in what they’re learning nowadays. The English teacher highlights a recent unit on advertising, where many students chose to focus their projects on wellness products (like a calorie-counting blender), for example.
Standardized tests land Louis-Riel amongst the best in the region and the province, alongside excellent rates for graduation and university-bound students.
“People would talk about the school and they’d say, ‘Oh, it’s a sports school, they’re only there to play sports,’” Levesque recounts. “But in the past couple years especially, parents, students and the community have noticed that it’s not just a sports school – it’s an excellent academic school that has a sports program.”
Less easy to measure with numbers on a spreadsheet is the impact derived from students playing sports together, and the close relationships fostered amongst students, coaches and staff.
“That’s a big part of the story,” Levesque underlines, noting that students are always supporting and motivating one another to reach their goals.
“And we’re not a really big high school – everyone knows each other, and they feel like they’re a part of the school and that they have their own place,” he adds. “It all helps school spirit big-time.”
Modern classroom setup and learning experience
The school’s active mindset is reflected in the new wing. Classrooms are designed to encourage students to move around instead of sitting in one place all period – gone are rows of desks in favour of different furniture types, and technology stations.
The addition also includes new offices for administrative services, a school store where Rebelles team gear can be purchased – to be managed by a senior-level business class – and the striking exterior façade above the new main entrance.
“It definitely adds some new colour,” signals Levesque. “It’s all very modern. It’s really a top-notch setting, and it just brings new energy to the school.”