Province releases review of outdoor education policies after Toronto student’s death

Jeremiah Perry, 15, drowned in Algonquin Park on July 4, 2017.
Jeremiah Perry, 15, drowned in Algonquin Park on July 4, 2017. Global News

TORONTO – A review of outdoor education policies at Ontario school boards, which was launched after a Toronto teen drowned on a field trip, has recommended boards develop guidelines for monitoring compliance with safety procedures.

It also recommended the creation of a support centre that would give staff standardized access to information on safety guidelines and other resources.

The report conducted for the province by Deloitte was presented to the Toronto District School Board this week.

READ MORE: Ontario to review outdoor education policies after Toronto student drowns on field trip

Jeremiah Perry, a student at C.W. Jefferys Collegiate Institute, disappeared under the water on July 15 after going for a swim with other students during a school-run canoe trip to Algonquin Park. His body was found a day later by search and rescue divers.

After Perry’s death, the school board said he and 15 other students on the trip had not passed a required swim test.

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The Toronto District School Board has since implemented new procedures that include school principals having to see a list of students who pass or fail a swim test before a trip, and parents having to be notified of the results.

The third-party review was commissioned by the province last August.

READ MORE: OPP investigating death of Toronto teen who drowned on field trip in Algonquin Park

It found almost all the school boards examined met the minimum standards for risk management practices, including swim test requirements, supervision ratios and instructor certification. However, the report noted the degree to which boards align with Ontario’s physical education safety guidelines varies.

“Interview and focus group participants suggested this variability stems from a lack of direction on a standardized approach,” the report said.

The review recommended boards develop guidelines for monitoring school compliance with safety policies.

“School boards should provide clear parameters for the consistent monitoring of requirements for outdoor education and excursions by schools,” the report said.

READ MORE: Family, community members attend vigil for Toronto teen who died during school trip

“The monitoring process should be supported by board-wide standardized tools and templates, checklists and associated protocols to enable schools to monitor and report on their results and adherence.”

The report also said the recommendation to create a centralized policy support centre came from staff who expressed interest in more direction from the Ministry of Education.

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“A policy implementation support centre would address the above by ensuring all schools and school boards have equal access to standardized information through centrally available sources,” the report said.

It also suggested school boards identify the training needs of staff by examining their level of expertise in outdoor education.