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Fence city ponds, petition demands after kindergartner’s death
Published Tuesday, September 12, 2017 11:19AM CST
Last Updated Wednesday, September 13, 2017 4:30PM CST
The death of a kindergarten student from Saskatoon’s École Dundonald School has prompted several Saskatoon residents to call for fences around city ponds.
“It seems to be common sense to fence bodies of water near schools,” Shannon Hill, from Saskatoon, posted to the petition website.
“Steps need to be taken to prevent accidents like this from happening again,” wrote John Nobel, from Warman, Sask.
The petition’s creator, Melissa Ackerman, said rather than placing blame on others, focus should be centred on preventing similar situations.
“If we can change something from happening in the future, why not?” Ackerman said.
The boy, who was pronounced dead in hospital, was found in a pond near École Dundonald School shortly after Saskatoon police were called to the area at about 10:50 a.m.
A family friend says the five-year-old's parents emigrated from Somalia 17 years ago. The boy was born in Saskatchewan, spoke English at home, but needed extra support while attending school, according to the friend.
The city’s public school board said at a news conference the student went missing during recess.The board, citing privacy concerns, has not provided details about any extra care the boy may have needed from staff. CTV is not yet sure if Dundonald School and Saskatoon's public school board was aware of the boy's needs.
Eight staff members, plus additional educational assistants assigned to certain kids, were supervising during the recess. The pond, now the site of a small memorial, with stuffed animals and balloons sitting near the water, is located about 50 metres from the school’s playground.
Hayder Fadlelmoula, a parent whose children saw part of the incident, said the news was devastating. His sister has a granddaughter in the boy’s kindergarten class.
“It’s so sad to hear that news — especially, like, he’s a young kid, like five years old, first time being in the school, maybe second day or third day,” he said. “It’s sad. It’s so sad.”
Fadlelmoula’s daughter, a student, said she heard an announcement over the school’s PA system about the boy.
“I thought he was in the hallway or something,” she said.
The school division sent letters home to parents Monday.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with the family at this time — the time of this devastating loss,” Barry MacDougall, Saskatoon Public Schools director of education, said at a news conference.
“We know that there are questions about the circumstances around the event. The office of the chief coroner is investigating the incident and we are providing our full cooperation, and we’re also looking into the incident internally.”
MacDougall did not refer to the incident as a drowning. He said officials are awaiting the coroner’s report before commenting on certain details.
Mayor Charlie Clark, who called the boy’s death a tragedy on Monday, said Tuesday installing fencing around the pond near Dundonald School may be explored but that city officials are waiting for more details before pushing any plan forward.
“I don’t want to downplay any of those concerns, but I also think we do need to understand what could have led to this and what kinds of things can be done to prevent this. And if there needs to be some fencing involved, we’ll look at that as well,” Clark said on CTV Morning Live.
Staff and students at the school will be interviewed as part of the school board’s investigation, according to MacDougall.
Police do not consider the death suspicious.
About 500 students attend Dundonald. Classes were cancelled on Monday and resumed Tuesday. The kindergarten class of the student who died was not scheduled for Tuesday and is set to return Wednesday.
All flags at the city's public and Catholic schools were at half-mast Tuesday in recognition of the boy’s death.
--- Angelina Irinici, Jill Macyshon and Fiona Odlum contributed to this report
Correction: A previous version of this article stated that the five-year-old boy was from Somalia and spoke limited English. CTV has now learned the boy was born in Saskatchewan and his English was not limited. We regret the error.