Saskatoon’s public school board chair is warning concerned citizens a fencing solution to safety fears on school playgrounds may be a complicated fix.
Calls for fencing — either around retention ponds or schoolyards — came after five-year-old Ahmedsadiq Elmmi was found unresponsive in a pond near École Dundonald School and later died on Monday.
Saskatoon Public Schools Board Chair Ray Morrison said he understands the concerns, but fencing may not be practical.
“We actually own a very small piece of property, and in the case of Dundonald, the playground is actually not on school property, it’s on city property,” he told 650 CKOM Thursday afternoon.
The school is one of many across Saskatoon where municipal parks act as a shared space for students and the public. They also share the parks with schools in the Catholic school division, including St. Peter Catholic Elementary School at Dundonald Park.
Morrison said adding fencing would limit the ability to share the park, noting schools aren’t using them all the time.
“It’s much more a community approach to use of land,” he said.
However, Morrison said he is having conversations with Mayor Charlie Clark and the Catholic school division on a range of options to improve schoolyard safety.
He said the school board is also working out their own response to the kindergartner’s death.
“We’ve realized that a tragedy like this is going to cause us to re-think a number of things,” he said.
“Options we have will be coming up in the weeks and months ahead, and be open for much debate.”
Autism supervision ‘case-by-case’
Questions have also been raised in the case over whether Elmmi, said to be autistic, was being supervised one-on-one by an educational assistant.
Morrison couldn’t comment on Elmmi’s supervision plan due to privacy legislation, but generally addressed the public board’s policies on services for autistic children.
“The supervision of any special needs child is done on an individual, case-by-case basis depending on the severity and the need,” he said.
“A child on the autism spectrum, depending on the severity, could have a variety of different ways that they’re supervised and managed, both in the classroom and on the playground.”
He also clarified while staffing levels had decreased at École Dundonald School with the opening of Ernest Lindner School in Hampton Village, the staff-student ratio was the same.
“There were no cuts at Dundonald,” he said.
Morrison emphasized they would be co-operating with the investigations of both the provincial children’s advocate and coroner’s office.