April 28th Early Dismissal
To Whom It May Concern,
I am a parent of two 7th graders in St. Catharines, ON. I’m writing to express my disappointment in and bewilderment at the action taken by school officials to evacuate the building on Thursday, April 28th, 2011.
As I’m sure you are aware, April 28th saw debilitating wind gusts, power outages and downed phone networks, beginning early that morning. In St. Catharines and its surrounding localities, deaths have since been reported to have been caused by the ferocious weather and the dangerous circumstances it brought on.
As a working mother who must leave my home shortly before my kids do in the morning, and who finishes the work day shortly after my children have been dismissed from their public school, I am often anxious during the times they not under the care of myself and/or that of their school. It has always eased my mind to know that in extreme cases, should the school release my children before 3:10 p.m., I, my secondary emergency contact, or my third emergency contact would be notified so as to make the appropriate arrangements concerning my children and their safe, unscheduled return to myself or one of our listed emergency contacts.
These said emergency contacts’ information are requested of me at the time of signing the emergency contact release form at the beginning of every school year, and I have always provided all contact information pertaining to myself, my husband and our other contacts diligently and with confidence that they WILL be used during unscheduled early releases.
For a parent working outside of the home during public school hours, my children being released five minutes early may as well be five hours early when a rigid work schedule is involved. I was privy, on the 28th of April to witness the chaos of vehicles using the honour system to travel through the traffic intersection that my children pass through on their way to and from school, as the lights had gone out. The honour system failed that day, and cars were skidding and causing near-accidents at every turn.
After trying from 10 a.m. to 3:15 p.m. to reach the school, to no avail, I naturally assumed that someone at the school with the use of a cell phone would have contacted me on my cell phone, (their first emergency contact), should my kids be dismissed any earlier than their scheduled release time of 3:10 p.m. I was wrong. After leaving work early to ensure that I would meet my children along their way home, I had nearly arrived at the school’s front door before finding out from another parent that my kids had already left the area after being dismissed due to severe weather.
Twenty minutes later, upon walking in my front door, I was informed by my children that one was dismissed ten minutes early and that the other was dismissed 5 minutes early. At this point I was already frazzled and beyond angered, not to mention relieved to no end that my kids had made it through the traffic kafuffle unharmed. Regardless of how many minutes they were dismissed early, based on the fact that I left work early, sped to the school, and still missed them, leads me to believe
that early they were dismissed. And therein lays my utter dismay. If my kids are dismissed even a minute before the time that we are all scheduled to know they will be dismissed at, then we, as parents should be informed, particularly on a day seeing violent winds and particularly when the child in question is walking home.
What if my child, barely 80 pounds was pulled up and out from the sidewalk during these huge wind gusts? What if he were pulled over and onto the road, where people were already driving erratically and under a tense, uncommon situation? What if he, released early without express consent by an emergency contact was crushed by one of the dozens of falling tree life witnessed yesterday? Under normal circumstances, this would be a tragic event.
Yesterday, this would see the entirety of the District School Board of Niagara facing unrelenting legal back lashing by myself and my family and every single other parent who suffered momentary bouts of anxiety or lasting bouts of grief. A breach of contract between the DSBN and I, made by the DSBN could have resulted in my child’s death.
My children’s school should be and always has been, for the most part, a safe home away from home for my kids. Now, apparently, their school has taken it a step further and afforded itself the liberty of making parental decisions on my behalf regarding my kids.
I haven’t spoken to the school personally, to find out indeed, the exact time that my kids were dismissed yesterday, and if my kids are both wrong, and if they were not let out before their normal dismissal time then I do apologize, but if they were let out early as they both attest then I must confess that this letter is supremely minimal by way of response to the animosity I felt on the 28th, and continue to feel every time I think about them walking home and through horribly dangerous intersections alone while I unknowingly was running around, looking for them.
Homeschooling never looked so good. Shame on the DSBN.
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