Breakaway Academy pioneers hockey-focused schooling in Chaska - New York News

Breakaway Academy pioneers hockey-focused schooling in Chaska

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CHASKA, Minn. (KMSP) -

Education has evolved over the past few decades with charter schools and others that focus intensively on music, theater and the arts -- but a new school in Chaska may be the first to cater to the hockey set.

The middle school students who spoke with FOX 9 News about the new school did so with enthusiasm, and their parents say the focus on hockey has their kids are highly-motivated to learn.

Even though it's not unusual for kids to hit the ice after school this time of year, there are a lot of questions being directed toward a teaching institution that puts a priority on a single sport.

"We're a private school, licensed teachers, small classroom sizes combined with specific hockey training," explained coach and co-founder Andy Brink. "There's nothing else like it in the Twin Cities."

Combining hockey with academics has been a five-year vision for Brink, and practice is a part of the daily school curriculum at the new Breakaway Academy in Chaska -- but that doesn't mean students get a pass on grades if they have skill on the ice.

"We're a little bit exclusive as to who we allow to come into this school," Brink said. "You have to be a high achiever in education; you have to be a high achiever in athletics."

The school day is broken up into two parts. From 8 a.m. until noon, the boys are in the classroom -- but the daily lessons do incorporate hockey too.

"The kids will be drafting their own NHL team, looking at salaries and doing budgets," Jeff Metzler explained.

Bringing hockey back into the lesson plan has a lot of students optimistic about their engagement.

"I think it'll help me learn more because it's something you love," Shane Lavelle said. "Mix it in with school work."

The second half of the school day is spent on the rink, but the ice time is tied to academic performance. If a student isn't doing well in class, they don't get to lace up their skates. Instead, they'll be studying. That motivates students too.

"I wanted to be really prepared and I wanted to learn and pay attention a lot more," Calvin Barrett admitted.

Parents are enjoying the extra enthusiasm too.

"I was very excited when Shane came home yesterday and, probably for the first time in five years, I got a response when I asked him, 'How was school today?'" Brian Lavelle told FOX 9. "He gave me a thumbs up and said, 'It was great!'"

Yet, some wonder whether the school is setting the boys up for failure since many may think of it as a ticket to the NHL; however, Brink said the school does prepare students for life after hockey.

"No question, the lessons you learn in athletics, whether it's hockey or any other sport, help you the rest of your life -- in business and in just any relationship you have," he said.

For others concerned about the health risks of hyper-focusing on one sport at an early age, all the kids who spoke with FOX 9 News play other sports too.

The founders of the Breakaway Academy say they know not everyone will agree with their academic model and they agree it certainly isn't for everyone. Even so, they insist it is no different than magnet schools focusing on the arts.

"We're the same concept, just our hook is hockey," Metzler said.

The Breakaway Academy plans to open its doors to girls as well as fourth- and fifth-grade students next year.

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