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Union questions staffing levels after death of Saskatoon kindergarten student

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Tuesday September 12, 2017 - 23:32:10 in Latest News by Ahmed Editor
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    Union questions staffing levels after death of Saskatoon kindergarten student

    The union representing education support workers is questioning staffing levels after a five-year-old boy died near a Saskatoon school.

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The union representing education support workers is questioning staffing levels after a five-year-old boy died near a Saskatoon school.

CBC News has learned the boy and his family had arrived recentlyfrom Somalia and spoke limited English.

"If you don't have enough adults supervising, you're setting up a tragedy like what happened," said Jackie Christianson, chair of the education workers committee for the Canadian Union of PublicEmployees.

"My heart is just breaking. There has to be resources put back in schools."

Education Minister Bronwyn Eyre said now is not the time to talk about budgets. She extended condolences to the family, and noted she has a son as well.

Eyre said the government does adequately fund school supervision, and said funding isn't a factor in this incident.

Saskatoon Public Schools director of education BarryMacDougallsaid Monday that in general, the number of teachers and support staff has remained steady or increased slightly over last year. He said he thinks the ratio of adults to children in schools is adequate.

 

The boy, who was a kindergarten student at Saskatoon'sEcole DundonaldSchool,went missing during the recess break Monday morning. Police were called, and he was found by a pond in the adjacent municipal park a couple of hundred metres away.

Christianson said details of this incident are unclear, but one thing is clear: they warned the provincial government repeatedly that budget cuts could cause a safety risk. That's especially true for children with language difficulties or other special needs.

"With each supervisor you cut, you're cutting two additional eyes, two additional hands, two additional feet. The support is not there for them," she said.

Christianson said she begged then-minister of Education Don Morgan not to impose the cuts on school boards when they spoke in May. CUPE issued a news release a week ago warning the cuts would make schools less safe.

"Our government cut more than $54 million, and this will make it more difficult for us to continue to help with the first-day jitters and make time at school a successful and safe experience," Christianson said in the Sept.5 news release.

Christiansontoured several schools over the past week. She said the lack of staff, including educational assistants for supervision was a huge concern.

Monday morning at the boy's home, a friend told CBC News his family arrived in Saskatchewan recently and spoke limited English.

Neighbourhood resident Judy Tyler said a panicked teacher approached her during her walk Monday morning. The teacher said they were looking for a young boy with dark, curly hair who "couldn't speak English."

Police say they've ruled out foul play. The provincial coroner is investigating.

CBC




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