A five-year-old student at École Dundonald School has died after being found in a nearby pond.
On the first Monday of the new school year, Saskatoon police officers were called to help find a boy who couldn’t be located during morning recess around 10:50 a.m.
The kindergarten student was then found in the water of a pond located behind the school. MD Ambulance paramedics tried to resuscitate the boy en route to Royal University Hospital, where he was later pronounced dead.
The school principal and a senior administrator met with the boy’s family at the hospital.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with the family at this time of this devastating loss,” said Barry MacDougall, director of education, at a news conference Monday afternoon.
Saskatoon police officers survey an area near a retention pond behind École Dundonald School on Sept. 11, 2017. (Chris Vandenbreekel/650 CKOM)
MacDougall said parents were notified that students were going to be kept inside for the lunch hour. Classes at Dundonald were cancelled soon after for the rest of the day.
“As events unfolded, it became obvious that the best people to look after our students at this time are their families,” he said.
A letter was sent out to the school community Monday afternoon, explaining the incident and how to discuss the matter with students. Counsellors and senior administrators were also sent to the school immediately after the incident. The division will provide the supports as long as necessary.
“We rely on our counsellors and teachers to talk in ways that are appropriate for young people about their classmate and the kind of person they were and how much they’ll be missed.”
The Office of the Chief Coroner is investigating with cooperation from Saskatoon Public Schools. The division, in turn, has launched its own internal investigation into the death.
The boy’s kindergarten class is scheduled to be off Tuesday, while other classes at the K-8 school will commence.
“Typically we try to resume routine, within a reasonable length of time, so we’ll monitor and see how people are doing, but school will be on tomorrow,” MacDougall said.
Outpouring of condolences
Saskatoon Mayor Charlie Clark also sent condolences to the family on behalf of the city. The pond is municipal property.
“This is very sad and tragic news. My thoughts, along with all of City Council’s, are with the family and with the school community as we come to terms with this loss. We understand the Office of the Chief Coroner is gathering information and we will work closely with them and all partners in the investigation of these circumstances.”
Saskatchewan Education Minister Bronwyn Eyre also sent a statement regarding the tragedy:
“We are all very saddened today to learn of the sudden and tragic passing of a young student at École Dundonald School in Saskatoon.
As a mother, I cannot imagine what his parents are going through, and I offer my deepest condolences, and condolences on behalf of all of government.
Our thoughts and our prayers are with the student’s family above all, with the staff at the school, the student’s friends and school mates, and all others impacted by this tragic event. I have spoken to the Saskatoon Public School Director of Education and École Dundonald School principal and offered them any support they may require during this time.”
Questions into supervision
There are currently no man-made fences or barriers around the pond, however, cattails grow around the edge of the water.
When asked if the school would take immediate action regarding safety around the pond, MacDougall said that would be determined by the outcome of the investigations.
“I suspect, given that it’s a municipal pond, that would be a conversation that would be held in the community,” MacDougall said.
“We will be reviewing with the school and with families, the supervision plan in and around the school.”
As per fall registration, there are 498 students at Dundonald School. MacDougall said, typically, the division ratio of students to teachers is 23 to 1.
“The number of supports in schools, in terms of teachers and educational assistants, has not changed this year – in fact, it has gone up a little bit,” MacDougall said.
Eight staff members, with support from additional educational assistants (EAs), supervise children during recess and lunch breaks. They’re assigned sections of the school to watch, and EAs often monitor specific groups of students or individuals.
The division couldn’t disclose whether the five-year-old boy had special supervision.
MacDougall said the division will implement any recommendations from the investigations “as soon as possible.”
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