MONTREAL -- A 16-year-old Montreal boy died after being stabbed in the parking lot of his school on Monday.

The boy made it inside the school to seek help and was sent to hospital after the 3 p.m. attack in the neighbourhood of Cote-des-Neiges. Montreal police said at about 8:45 p.m. that he had died.

He was stabbed just outside the school he attended, according to the English Montreal School Board -- an alternative school called Programme Mile End that was located in the basement of another school, Coronation Elementary. 

Police said the stabbing started as a fight between a group of boys and that they're looking for three suspects, all ages 16 to 18.

Earlier Monday, Montreal police said they were called to the intersection of Van Horne and Victoria avenues around 3 p.m. for a call about an assault with a weapon. 

Upon arrival, officers found the victim, a 16-year-old boy, who was suffering from "serious" stab wounds to his upper body.

He had been in an altercation with a group of young people near a sports centre, police said -- the Centre sportif Cote-des-Neiges.

That recreation centre is right next to Coronation Elementary, sharing a block of Van Horne with it. Plamondon Metro is right across the street.

Later on Monday, police spokesperson Raphael Bergeron told CTV that the boys began fighting outside the sports centre but their fight moved to the school parking lot that adjoined it.

The fight "sort of transported itself to the school parking lot," said Bergeron, and at that point the victim was stabbed.

"He went inside the school to get some help, collapsed," and an ambulance was called, Bergeron said.

Three suspects fled on foot. Police declined to provide a description of who they're seeking.

The attack took place in an area that seems to have plenty of surveillance video -- the sports centre and many neighbouring business likely have cameras -- which will be a help, Bergeron said.

"They're looking at all that," he said. "Obviously they're going to look at different video surveillance, businesses around the place."

Police have closed down the school as they investigate, setting up a command post at the scene.

Cote-des-Neiges stabbing

In a statement Monday night, the EMSB extended its "deepest condolences" to the boy's family and friends and said it has little information about what happened.

The board's spokesperson told CTV that staff, including him, are deeply affected by the news. 

"We're in mourning right now," spokesperson Mike Cohen told CTV Montreal.

"In my 23 years at the board, this is the first time I’m aware of student losing his life this way,” meaning in an attack on school grounds, he said.

Police notified the boy's family before his death was made public, Cohen said.

“We have our trauma team and they’ll go and be with the staff tomorrow," he said, before facing the bigger question: how to talk to students.

"I’m sure [the staff] will be very shaken, and then the following day when the students come back they’ll talk to them – because this word is going to get out that an incident like this occurred on school grounds."

The schools are quite separate and have different entrances, he said. Both will be closed to students on Tuesday, and the board has asked the trauma team to help students as well.

“This is a very sad day,” said EMSB Director General Nick Katalifos in a statement.

"We do not know all of the details and we await a report from police."

According to the EMSB's description of Programme Mile End, it's a small school meant only for students in grades 10 and 11, with small classes that can help them "find their confidence and reengage academically."

"Programme Mile End offers a fresh start for students, and a chance for them to discover who they are, where they want to go, and the belief that they can get there," said the description written by staff.

The school starts each year with an overnight trip to the Laurentians to help students form attachments to each other and to get motivated about classes.

"Our staff is determined to support our students in all aspects of life, and are willing to go the extra mile to try out different methods in order to determine the one that best suits their needs," said the writeup.

The death is Montreal's 25th homicide of the year.

--With files from CTV's Andrew Brennan and Kelly Greig.