HPSD chooses protection of assets over play

In past years, High Prairie and area children were quick to utilize the berm east of the High Prairie Learning Centre as a sledding hill. The site was recently fenced off due to liability concerns.

Chris Clegg
South Peace News

Children no longer have access to a popular sledding hill in High Prairie’s east end.
The High Prairie School Division board of trustees have cited liability concerns and recently spent thousands of dollars to keep kids out.
HPSD responded to questions from South Peace News about the decision, which some residents have criticized on social media.
“Last year, the berm on our property was used by several families as a toboggan hill,” writes HPSD in their response.
“We were informed by our insurance company that this was a risk that would not be covered in our insurance policy, should a person be hurt on the hill and name the Division in a lawsuit. As our primary funding is for the education of children, the Division could not put their assets in jeopardy by keeping the berm open to the public.”
HPSD adds their insurance company gave them three options: pull down the hill and dispose of the dirt, fence the property, or list the land as surplus and sell it.
The board did not consider asking how much it would cost to insure the property, or ask the Town of High Prairie to cost-share the bill to give kids a place to play.
“Our insurance did not give us a dollar amount to provide coverage for the use of the berm but rather said its use was a liability, and the Division would be responsible for any and all legal fees associated with any litigation that should occur.”
HPSD says the cost of the fence to encircle the entire compound was $35,000. A specific cost to fence the compound and not the berm is now known.
“The amount spent on the fence is much lower than either an insurance increase due to not addressing the known risks or the legal costs associated with a lawsuit,” says HPSD.
HPSD adds the decision to fence the entire area was also due to theft concerns.
“As we were additionally facing risk, also identified by our insurer, to our fleet vehicles and buses, the decision to fence the facility was considered to be the best available option.”
HPSD writes in their response that “at about that same time [as sledding began], we began to experience some break-ins and vandalism to our fleet vehicles and buses. Again, there was a need to protect board assets, and our insurance company looked at an unsecured lot as being high-risk.”
Therefore, the decision was made to fence the entire property to ensure HPSD vehicles and buses were protected.
Repeated checks at the Learning Centre Nov. 20-21 showed free and easy access to the site. The entrance at the south end of the site was open. No gate was installed, or rope or chain attached across the entrance, to prohibit vandals from entering.

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