A decision by the Waterloo Region District School Board to make Canadian Standards Association-approved helmets mandatory for all students and staff on skating field trips doesn't cut it with some parents, who criticize the decision not only abrupt, but unfair.
"Really, the time to discuss any safety issues would not be half way through, where the program is underway, but earlier on, maybe October or November," Martin Kiik said of the January 29 decision by the Waterloo Region District School Board.
Kiik, a father of four, said his six-year-old son was supposed to go skating with his first grade class at Sheppard Public School on Thursday. But the session was cancelled because, Kiik was told, many children and staff didn't have the headgear now mandated by the school board.
Kiik's son had planned on wearing a bicycle helmet during the skating trip and burst into tears when he learned of the change.
"He was in school, happily, with his skates and helmet on hand, only to find out over the course of the day that their first outing was cancelled on the spot."
"Having the program cancelled at the last minute, there's some level of frustration," Kiik said. "At least that's what I'm feeling."
As for the timing, Mary Lou Mackie, the Executive Superintendent of Education with the WRDSB, said it stems from a recent accident involving board staff. She couldn't specify the nature of the incident or how severely the staff member was hurt.
"As a result, we have had to mandate the use of helmets for our staff. Because we want to make sure our students are as safe as our adults, we thought it was important to have the same level of standard of care for our students," she said.
"So, in the short term, some schools may have had to cancel the trips because they can't ensure that the children all have helmets."
Kiik said what concerns him most though is that some families will not be able to afford the helmets, which can range in price from $30 to $150.
"My concern here is that there are parents who might have had some difficulty coming together with the funds to do it," he said.