A Saskatoon kindergarten student pronounced dead after being found in a pond near École Dundonald School had special needs, numerous sources tell CTV News.
A family friend says the boy needed extra support while attending school, including one-on-one supervision, and that his speech was delayed for his age.
The five-year-old's parents emigrated from Somalia 17 years ago. The friend says the boy was born in Saskatchewan and spoke English at home.
CTV is not yet sure if Dundonald School and Saskatoon's public school board was aware of the boy's needs.
The boy, who was pronounced dead in hospital, was found in a pond — now the site of a small memorial, with stuffed animals and balloons sitting near the water — near the school Monday. He was found shortly after Saskatoon police were called to the area at about 10:50 a.m.
The city has said the school’s property line is 120 metres from the pond. Google Maps shows the distance from the playground to one edge of the pond to be about 50 metres.
The city’s public school board said at a news conference the student went missing during recess. Eight staff members, plus additional educational assistants assigned to certain kids, were supervising during the break.
The school board, citing privacy concerns, has not provided details about any extra care the boy may have needed from staff.
“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 Monday’s 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.
Police do not consider the death suspicious.
The death has prompted several Saskatoon and area residents to call for the city to install fencing around ponds near schools and parks. A petition on change.org, started Monday, had garnered more than 370 signatures as of Tuesday evening.
“Steps need to be taken to prevent accidents like this from happening again,” John Nobel, from Warman, Sask., wrote on the petition page.
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.
About 500 students attend Dundonald School.
All flags at the city's public and Catholic schools were at half-mast Tuesday in recognition of the boy’s death.
--- Angelina Irinici and Jill Macyshon 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.