SASKATOON — Saskatchewan's education minister says school divisions should review safety measures at schools that are close to ponds after a kindergarten student died in Saskatoon.
But Bronwyn Eyre said it's too soon to know what led to the death of the five-year-old boy or whether something could have been done to prevent it.
"I understand that there are a number of schools, and certainly public spaces, that have that type of pond or catchment pond near where children play, so I think that's something that everyone should be looking at," Eyre said Tuesday at a school opening in Regina.
The boy was found in a pond near Dundonald School after recess ended Monday morning. He was pronounced dead in hospital.
CTV Saskatoon quoted unnamed sources as saying the boy was a newcomer to Canada from Somalia who spoke limited English and needed extra supports.
Police have said the boy's death is not suspicious. The coroner's office is investigating.
The pond was built four years before the public school in 1983 to catch storm water and was converted to hold water permanently in 2005. It's about 120 metres from the school property line.
Eyre, who was a public school board trustee in Saskatoon, said she hadn't heard any concern about the pond before Monday.
"Obviously, now it's top of mind for people, which I completely understand. As I say, I have a son, he goes to school, and I can completely understand why parents are as concerned and upset as they are today," she said.
There are many questions about why there was no fence around either the pond or the school, and about supervision at recess.
One Facebook post from someone named Jenn Lange said: "This is not a blame game time. Fence all schoolyards, bottom line. You cannot watch children 100% of the time."
Another from Krista Carignan said: "This is awful.... HOW did this happen.... If you have a POND near a school play area then you better have sufficient supervision!!!!! An avoidable tragedy, how sad for all involved!"
Angela Gardiner, acting general manager of transportation and utilities with the city of Saskatoon, said none of the city's ponds has a fence.
The ponds are meant to be amenities within neighbourhoods and are often used for activities such as skating in the winter or canoeing in the summer. They're also part of the storm water infrastructure aimed at reducing flooding in neighbourhoods.
But a fence around the school yard could be part of talks with school boards, she suggested.
"Those are some of the discussions we'll be having over the next little while," said Gardiner.
"And one of the other things is reviewing the report and the recommendations from the chief coroner. So we will be co-operating with those and we are open to measures that will improve safety of students and residents in and around the city."
A Catholic school also backs the same green space.
Gardiner said the city will also talk to Greater Saskatoon Catholic Schools board.
Meanwhile, the president of the Saskatchewan Teachers' Federation said it's too early to say what can be done to prevent similar deaths.
"Even as far as a fence, I mean, there's bodies of water all over the city in Saskatoon and certainly it'd be very difficult to fence the entire Saskatchewan River system," said Patrick Maze.
"So, it's too early to be jumping to conclusions as to what the solution is. I think that will come out in the end, some recommendations, but right now it's important just to support the family and support that community."
Maze did not know the supervision schedule at Dundonald School.
The director of education for Saskatoon Public Schools has said the staff-to-student ratio during recess is adequate — eight staff members, plus additional educational assistants assigned to certain children.
Barry McDougall said in a letter to parents on Monday the division is also looking into the incident internally.
— By Jennifer Graham in Regina
The Canadian Press