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OES students tackle schoolyard dog poop problem
Students at Osoyoos Elementary School are speaking up about a stinky problem and they’re getting a civics lesson at the same time.
Students in grades 6 and 7 say they’re sick and tired of dog feces being left in the schoolyard when dog owners fail to clean up after their pets.
They’re organizing letter writing and posters and they plan to raise the issue with town council.
“Some kids were playing rugby at the lower field and they caught the ball and there was poo all over it,” said student Tyler Kozun. “It happened twice yesterday.”
“It’s gross,” said student Vaneet Chawla, who has slipped in dog poop in the past. “It’s really disgusting. It makes me sick.”
James Brouwer, another student, said he too has stepped in dog poop in the schoolyard.
“It smelled really bad and it was hard to clean off my shoe,” said Brouwer.
Chawla said younger children, including those in Kindergarten, sometimes track it into the school where it gets on carpets and other children sit in it.
The students said they’ve seen adults letting dogs run at large on the grounds. They allow their dogs to defecate and they don’t bother to clean it up.
It’s a health hazard, Brouwer said.
“If you touch it and rub your face it can get all over your face,” he said. “And if you go to eat something it gets inside you.”
The students show a flat designated “poop shovel” that they take around the yard to clean up feces before ball games.
It takes them no time at all to find several clumps around the schoolyard to show a reporter.
In a letter to parents, the students ask the adults to clean up.
“There is a new dog park up near the high school where your dog can run around off leash and go to the bathroom!” they advise. “If you’re going to ignore our message, your child… is probably suffering by stepping in poop with his/her brand new shoes you paid for!”
Teacher Ryan Miller said his students are taking the lead in raising awareness about the problem and his role is to act as a facilitator.
Currently there are no rules prohibiting dogs in the schoolyard, Miller said. He thinks a bylaw prohibiting dogs from the yard may be necessary.
The students make extensive use of the yards for games like rugby and Miller said he’s often seen children slip in dog feces.
School district chair Marieze Tarr said the school’s parent advisory council (PAC) discussed the issue last week and will be asking the town to provide posts with bags for dog owners to use.
“Everyone thought that they don’t want to ban dogs on the field,” she said. “They just want to encourage dog owners to be responsible and to clean up after their pet.”
The school board has never discussed the problem, she said.
“It’s not a huge issue,” said Tarr. “I think it’s certainly not a nice thing for kids to play outside and come back into the classroom with dog poop on their shoes.”
Some other elementary schools, such as Cawston, have prohibited dogs on school grounds, she said, but such decisions are made at the local level in response to specific problems.
Many large Canadian cities and smaller communities prohibit dogs on school grounds. Many do it through municipal bylaws, though some do it through school board policies.
Edmonton, Winnipeg and Kamloops, for example, prohibit dogs on school grounds under municipal bylaws. In Vancouver, the school board prohibits them at some schools.
Osoyoos Mayor Stu Wells said the issue has never been brought to his attention, but he would welcome a delegation of students coming to council to speak about it.
“How wonderful it would be to have them come before council,” said Wells, suggesting it would help the students to learn about local government. “I think it’s a great idea and then we’ll see what council does.”
If the students want to appear on the agenda, they should contact the town office by the Wednesday before the next council meeting, Wells said.