A five-year-old Saskatoon boy's death has sparked concern in Winnipeg about retention ponds bordering school property.
The kindergarten student went missing during a supervised recess and was pronounced dead in hospital after being found in a pond Monday morning near Dundonald School.
Two Winnipeg schools in the Louis Riel School Division, Samuel Burland and Ecole Van Belleghem, border retention ponds but school board chairperson Chris Sigurdson said kids are warned to stay away from the water.
“We’ve been here 30 years and we haven’t had a problem,” said Sigurdson. “We take our students’ safety very seriously.”
“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. The policies we have in place are good. They’re working but I think we’re going to be talking to our kids again and reinforce the message of the dangers and to stay away from retention ponds.”
Lifesaving Society of Manitoba operations manager Kevin Tordiffe said supervision is key when it comes to preventing drownings but added safety reinforcements may be needed.
“I think we have to evaluate the risks in any given situation and when you’re talking about a body of water that is not intended for swimming and it’s near what I would call a high risk environment like a school it should be fenced providing a physical barrier to keep kids out,” said Tordiffe. “We should consider it. If we’re starting to see drowning trends into these environments across Canada we should always be reevaluating risks like that.”
Tordiffe can only recall one similar drowning in Manitoba in 1997 during the flood but it was during spring and there was ice and debris involved.
Coun. Janice Lukes (South Winnipeg) said at least three schools in her ward have retention ponds nearby but she’s not sure fencing is the answer.
“Often with schools they’re beside a bunch of greenspace, a large greenspace which then is beside a retention pond so it’s a very common scenario: school, greenspace or playground, retention pond,” said Lukes. “I don’t know if it’s feasible to fence everyone around schools. The school division would have to make that decision but they’d have to work in partnership with the city but the city may need access at certain points.”