How would you feel if your five-year-old went missing from the school ground on her first day of kindergarten and nobody knew her whereabouts for about 30 minutes?
Nancy Osmond’s five-year-old daughter walked away from the school grounds during the lunch hour at Pasadena Elementary on Wednesday.
Nobody had any idea where she was for about 30 minutes.
It was not exactly the day Osmond and husband Phillip could have imagined for their daughter’s first day of kindergarten.
Fortunately, her daughter managed to find her way to safety after a 15-minute walk brought her to the home of a neighbour, who had heard the little girl crying uncontrollably outside their window.
“I don’t think my stomach has settled since Wednesday,” Osmond said Friday of the scare she received.
The little girl, who is not being named on the request of her family, was all smiles and chatting with her classmates when mom left the school Wednesday. Mom and daughter took some "first-day"’ photos and hung around the classroom for 20 minutes or so. Then mom left thinking everything was great and her child was settled in nicely.
According to Osmond, her child was on the playground with other students with three teachers and four student assistants providing supervision.
Sometime between noon and 12:15 p.m., she said her daughter slipped away from everyone, into the woods and out onto the road, apparently unnoticed and unseen by anyone.
Then, Osmond said, a teacher did a head count at 12:15 p.m. and realized somebody was missing. A search inside the school, around the grounds and wooded area near the school was conducted but there is no sign of the little girl.
According to Osmond, she received a call from her neighbour around 12:40 p.m. informing her that her daughter had walked away from the school.
Osmond didn’t like it that the school didn’t contact her first when teachers realized she was missing.
“Why didn’t we receive the phone call?" she asks. "At what point were we going to receive a phone call if at all? That’s my main concern."
Osmond said fear set in when she heard what had happened. She expected the worst and all kinds of different scenarios raced through her mind.
“We’re just very fortunate that she actually met up with somebody she knew, but circumstances could have been so much different, and it could be such a different story that I had to tell and I’m glad it wasn’t,” she said.
She has expressed her concerns with teachers and the principal at the school with hopes of creating awareness about her experience so nobody has to go through what she did.
A quick resolution isn’t something she sees happening because the easiest way to address it would be to hire more teachers to supervise. She knows that isn’t going to happen.
The idea of her child attending a school that allowed her access to some trails was something that appealed to her because she loves the outdoors. But, now she’s changed her perspective and believes fencing in the entire playground area is one thing that could prevent the next child from wandering away.
She also wonders if her daughter’s whereabouts could have been figured out sooner if there were video cameras in place on the outside of the school. She said a lot of schools around the province are equipped with video cameras inside, so maybe it’s time to look at installing them outside to capture images on the school grounds.
The experience has made Osmond anxious and uneasy. She has another daughter heading to kindergarten next year so she wants things to be much safer for her and others that will look forward to a great first day of school down the road.
“I just hope it never happens again to anyone,” she said.
Hal Cormier is the chairperson of the Pasadena Elementary School Council. He has a child attending the same school, so he has an idea of how the Osmonds were feeling about what unfolded that day.
He wouldn't comment on Osmond’s particular situation, but he plans on putting the issue on the agenda for the school council’s first meeting of the year once it has been finalized. He said he has the family in his thoughts.
“When you hear something like this happens your heart just sinks,” Cormier said.
He’s confident teachers followed the proper protocol for incidents like these, but if there is a feeling that there has to be changes made to that protocol then he believes it will be something addressed both by the student council and school board officials.
Should not happen
Donna Miller Fry, assistant director of programs with the Newfoundland and Labrador English School Board District, said she spoke with the parents about the incident and offered an apology. She also agrees incidents like these should not happen.
“The safety of all our students is our No. 1 concern,” Fry said late Friday afternoon.
Fry said the Osmonds raised a number of valid issues when it comes to supervision of the children on the school ground given the fact a small child was able to slip away without anyone having any knowledge of it.
She said she talked with Osmond about all the things that are in place to protect the students and figures a look at the supervision policies is a starting point because those measures have been in place for years without incident.
It’s not something taken lightly, she said, by school board officials or teachers so every effort will be made to ensure no other parent has to deal with a similar situation down the road.
“Looking at the supervision policy and thinking about how we can ensure nothing like this happens again (is the focus)," she said.
- 8 a.m. — Nancy Osmond brings her daughter to school and hangs out with her for about 30 minutes before leaving her child in the hands of the teacher.
- Noon — The little girl heads to the playground outside for lunch period with all of the other students and three teachers and four student assistants are supervising.
- Between noon and 12:15 p.m. — The little girl slips away from everybody into the woods and out onto the road unseen by anyone.
- 12:15 p.m. — Teacher does head count and realizes there is a child missing. A search of the school inside and out reveals the girl isn’t anywhere near.
- 12:30 p.m. — The little girl shows up near the family’s neighour crying uncontrollably
- 12:38 p.m. — Mom receives phone call from neighbour saying her daughter is in her care and tells her she is going to bring daughter back to the school
- 12:40 p.m. — Osmond, in Corner Brook for a meeting at the time, heads for the school to retrieve her daughter and discuss the situation with the principal.