Boy, 5, dies after police find him in pond near Sask. school
Jackie Dunham and Graham Slaughter, CTVNews.ca
Published Tuesday, September 12, 2017 8:55AM EDT
Last Updated Wednesday, September 13, 2017 8:10AM EDT
Questions are surrounding the circumstances of the death of a 5-year-old boy whose body was found in a pond near a Saskatoon elementary school.
CTV Saskatoon reports that the kindergarten student went missing during morning recess at Dundonald School on Monday. Staff members called police as soon as they noticed his absence.
Police quickly found the boy approximately 10 minutes after recess ended, in a municipal park’s retention pond located about 45 metres from the school playground.
The boy was rushed to hospital where his family joined him soon after. He was pronounced dead at the hospital.
The boy’s death came as a shock for students and parents at the start of the school year. Schools across Saskatoon flew their flags at half-mast on Tuesday, and a makeshift memorial of balloons and stuffed animals was placed on the grass beside the pond.
Hayder Fadlelmoula knows the family and said the child was only on his second or third day at the school.
“It’s so sad,” Fadlelmoula told CTV Saskatoon.
Saskatoon Public Schools notified parents of students attending Dundonald School about the tragic news in a letter sent out later that day. The school board called the boy’s death an “extraordinary loss” and classes were cancelled for the rest of the day.
Extra supports have been put in place to help grieving students.
“Children will react in various ways to the news of a sudden death. We are asking parents to have a conversation with their children tonight,” the letter by Barry McDougall, the director of education, advised.
McDougall acknowledged that there were many questions surrounding the circumstances of the child’s death.
“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,” McDougall said at a press conference on Monday.
There were eight staff members, plus additional educational assistants, on duty supervising the children during recess that day. The pond does not have a barrier or fence around it.
Police were seen searching the area around the pond on Monday. They said they don’t consider the death suspicious.
Students were back at school on Tuesday, and a supervisor was seen standing between children at the playground and the area toward the pond.
Melissa Ackerman, a local mother, has started a petition calling on the city to install fences around ponds near schools and in parks to prevent similar tragedies.
“Kids can be out of sight, out of mind within seconds, and blaming the teachers or parents in other situations isn’t how we should go about it. If we can change something from happening in the future, why not?”
Saskatoon Mayor Charlie Clark said the city needs to take time to learn what led to the incident, but he isn’t opposed to fencing the pond.
“Perhaps this one we could take a different look at because the proximity to the schoolyard,” Clark said.
McDougall said that while officials are waiting for the coroner’s findings to be released, they are focusing on providing support for the family of the five-year-old boy.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with the family at this time, the time of this devastating loss,” he said.
Parents were alerted that 9-11 had been called for a student via the school’s text message emergency alert system at around noon on Monday. They received a subsequent message telling them that the family was with the child in hospital and that classes were cancelled for the rest of the afternoon.
“It was pretty scary. You don’t know if your kid’s okay. You don’t know what the story is,” Kim Stav, a parent, told CTV Saskatoon on Monday.
Students in grades 1 to 6 returned to school on Tuesday, but kindergarten classes remained cancelled.
With a report from CTV Saskatoon’s Angelina Irinici