Concerned residents of several communities are calling for the installation of fences around retention ponds, following the death of a five-year-old boy who was found in a pond near his Saskatoon school.
The kindergarten student went missing during the supervised recess break at Dundonald School on Monday morning. Police discovered the boy in a shallow retention pond located approximately 45 metres from the school playground. He was pronounced dead in hospital later that day.
The tragedy has prompted alarmed citizens, including local mother Melissa Ackerman, to demand action on protecting children from these bodies of water. She started an online petition calling on the City of Saskatoon to set up fences or physical barriers around ponds situated near schools and parks.
“Kids can be out of sight, out of mind within seconds,” Ackerman told CTV Saskatoon on Tuesday. “If we can change something from happening in the future, why not?”
The change.org petition has already garnered 475 of its target 500 signatures as of Wednesday morning.
“Adding fencing could stop curious children from falling in and or causing another fatality,” the petition states.
The young boy’s death in Saskatoon has reverberated in other Canadian cities, including Winnipeg, where parents of students attending Samuel Burland School are raising concerns about its proximity to a local retention pond. Separated by an open field, The edge of the school’s playground is approximately 165 metres away from the edge of the pool of water.
“They [the students] are not even physically allowed to be over there and when you see a little person walking over there you’re thinking, ‘Hey wait a second, you’re not supposed to be here,’” mother Bridy Madill told CTV Winnipeg.
It’s also not the only school within the Louis Riel School Division that borders a city retention pond. Ecole Van Belleghem is another school located within a short distance of a municipal pond.
Despite the alarm raised by some parents, Chris Sigurdson, the school board chairperson, said the division hasn’t had any problems with the ponds in its 30-year existence.
“We instruct kids at our two schools every year not to go past the tree line. The city has good signage – no swimming. In the winter, no skating,” Sigurdson explained. “The policies in place are good. They’re working.”
Although the board hasn’t planned to install any fencing around the pond, the Lifesaving Society of Manitoba says it might be an option to consider.
“When you're talking about a body of water that is not intended for swimming and it's near a high-risk environment like a school, it should be fenced - providing a physical barrier to keep kids out," Kevin Tordiffe, the operations manager for the Lifesaving Society of Manitoba, said.
The Louis Riel School Division said it plans to reissue warnings to students about staying away from the retention ponds, particularly at Samuel Burland School and Ecole Van Belleghem.
There are at least seven other schools located near retention ponds in the City of Winnipeg, according to CTV Winnipeg’s Josh Crabb.
With files from CTV Winnipeg and CTV Saskatoon