OUR VIEW: CMS incident could’ve been avoided

Published 4:11 pm Friday, May 20, 2022

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Earlier this week, we reported that 10 Callaway Middle School students were taken for medical treatment after heat-related illnesses impacted them during the school’s field day.

We’ve been told that all of those students are fine, which is obviously the most important thing regarding this entire story. All 10 were sent as a precautionary measure, per TCSS.

LDN reporters have talked to several parents about what happened. The comments section on our Facebook page has also been filled with a lot of discussion as well, though some of that is a reaction to the story and not people with students directly involved.

In full transparency, we think it’s important to say that some of those willing to go on the record noted that they have never really had an issue at CMS before, so it’s not as if they are always complaining about the school. They are happy their kids go to school there.

TCSS has released a statement saying that water filling stations were available, and the gymnasium was open for students to go in, get water and get out of the heat. Water was also available for sale that day for $2, on top of the filling stations.

Just like any other school function, there are a lot of adults involved in putting together a field day, and to be honest, we find it hard to believe that all of them didn’t consider that students might need water. That doesn’t seem likely or fathomable. TCSS holds a field day at every school, and while it’s true that all schools have their own administrators, we saw water coolers at several of the ones we attended this week.

But with that said — there was clearly some sort of communication failure. Either students didn’t realize they could go into the gymnasium for water and to cool down, or they didn’t bring a bottle from home for the filling stations. (However, we’ll note that the water filling stations have operated the exact same way since they were put in place following the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. You have to bring a bottle, and by now students and parents should be aware of that.)

And while we certainly understand that the school needs to fundraise any way it can, it’s a bad look to sell bottled water for $2 at a field day event — even if water was available inside the gymnasium. It’s ridiculous to think about a coach doing the same at an athletics practice because it would never happen, and those are students who are at least used to practicing and running around. That isn’t always the case for students participating in field day.

More than anything it sounds as if the $2 water was a sticking point for the parents upset. Imagine if your company had an outside retreat, where a water fountain was available between meetings. However, your boss had a cooler of drinks available nearby but said it’s going to cost $2 per item. We’re guessing a few people reading this would quit that job. We certainly understand that extras that aren’t necessities, like Kona Ice, cost money. 

Ultimately, the good news is that everyone is OK, and we’re not trying to make a mountain out of a molehill. But this could’ve been worse, and there is no reason for a school to put itself in this position. Perception often becomes reality, and if one student misunderstood that water was $2 and that none was available elsewhere, then that quickly can spread and get out of hand.

We realize water coolers aren’t ideal due to the possible spread of COVID-19, but it feels like they’d be everywhere at field day as an option for students who chose not to go inside and use a water filling station.