The Toronto District School Board (TDSB) is revealing the safety measures it’s put in place in the wake of last summer’s drowning of a 15-year-old student during an Algonquin Park field trip.
Jeremiah Perry was one of on 33 students from C.W, Jeffreys Collegiate Institute and Westview Centennial Secondary School in North York who were on a week-long canoe trip when the accident happened in early July of 2017.
The new measures include a mandatory second swim test at the site of the trip. As well, the student, his or her parents and the school principal need to be made aware of the test results, and life jackets must be worn at all times — “no exceptions,” the report states.
“It’s a great experience for your personal growth and your education and we don’t want to stop these,” board chair Robin Pilkey told CBC Toronto Wednesday.
“What’s more important is that we worked on our procedures to make sure safety was paramount,” Pilkey said.
“It was always paramount, but this is adding a another layer to it.”
After the teen’s death, the board reported that about half the students on the trip had failed the swim test, but were allowed to go anyway.
Although Wednesday’s report refers to Perry’s death on its opening page, it doesn’t look into the causes of the tragedy.
And Pilkey said she couldn’t discuss those questions, citing an ongoing police investigation.
The report was written by Manon Gardner, the board’s executive superintendent. She explained why a second test is so important:
“It’s different to do a swim test in a pool than it is in open water, in a river, cold water,” she said.
If a student fails the second on-site test, he or she will be given supervised alternative “meaningful” activities for the duration of the excursion, she said.
The report’s protocols have been in place since September of last year, Gardner said, but won’t get the board’s official stamp of approval until September 2018, when they go before the TDSB’s governance committee.