By Dianne Cornish
A parent of a primary grade student at Guy Brown Elementary School is still upset over the lack of quick response from the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board (HWDSB) over her concerns about icy conditions on school grounds on the first day back to school last Monday.
The parent, who asked for anonymity, said the ice was all cleared away overnight Tuesday, but she questions why it took so long to address what she considers a major safety concern. The ice, which covered the sidewalks and walkways leading to the school, the entire parking lot and blacktop area behind the school, as well as the school grounds where the students play during recess, was as thick as three inches in places, she reported.
“My concern was the kids playing in the schoolyard and if they fell and cracked their skulls,” she said, adding that she knows of two teachers and a parent who fell on the ice in the parking area. “Ice was everywhere.”
The parent said she immediately relayed her concerns to the school principal and custodian, but it was only after she contacted Flamborough councillor Judi Partridge last Tuesday morning and the councillor followed through by emailing superintendent of schools John Laverty and Flamborough trustee Karen Turkstra that anything was done.
“They double timed it (overnight Tuesday)” to remove the ice from the school parking lot, sidewalks and blacktop area, she claimed, adding that it was “inexcusable” the ice wasn’t tended to sooner with an application of salt or sand.
The ice was the result of a heavy snowfall that blanketed the area on Dec. 26. “It should have been taken care of immediately over the (Christmas) holidays; we shouldn’t have been walking into it the first day back,” the parent protested.
Daniel Del Bianco, senior facilities officer with the HWDSB, explained that there are three components to snow removal at schools under the board’s jurisdiction: contractors are hired to remove snow from school driveways and parking lots, the City of Hamilton removes it from public sidewalks and the school custodian is responsible for its removal from all entranceways and walkways on board property.
“We experienced our first significant snowfall over the holidays and it takes a while for contractors to get up and running and get a routine going,” Del Bianco said, adding, “There are, unfortunately, some hiccups.”
The board official said health and safety are important to the board and “as a rule of thumb, we are always reviewing work our contractors do.”
School caretakers are charged with removing snow and ice, or salting and sanding entranceways and walkways to ensure staff and student safety, he said.
Turkstra said snow and ice removal are “school operational items” and not something she normally gets involved in, unless there are multiple complaints from parents. Normally, such concerns are relayed to the board’s facilities department for resolution, she explained.
“I’m sure it was rectified, but (possibly) not as quickly as the parent had hoped.”