A safe-arrival program is a system of procedures which are performed
together with daily school attendance taking. Parents and guardians are
responsible for their childrens safety. Safe-arrival programs are a
mechanism that parents and schools can use to account for any pupils
unexplained failure to arrive at school.
While recognizing that many exemplary programs are currently in place,
this memorandum seeks to encourage safe-arrival programs in all elementary
schools in Ontario. It suggests the exercise of local discretion in the
design and implementation of the programs in order to take into account
the unique circumstances of every school. Such unique circumstances may
include, but are not limited to, the number of staff available to
implement policies, the size of the student body, and the age of the
pupils, as well as the geographic conditions in the vicinity of the
school, the kind of transportation used by pupils to travel to school, and
the communication methods available in the area.
This policy/program memorandum is not intended to alter the law as it
exists with respect to any duty of care or standard of care of school
boards, school authorities, directors of education, principals, teachers,
Director of Provincial Schools Branch, or other officials and staff.
Policy and Objectives
In order to promote the safety of our pupils, each district school
board, each school authority, and the Provincial Schools Branch are
requested to develop a policy statement applying to each elementary school
within their jurisdiction for the development and implementation of a
safe-arrival program. It is suggested that the policy statement be issued
by May 31, 1999, for schools to begin implementation of a program at the
start of the 1999-2000 school year with full implementation by the end of
This policy is intended to provide that:
- all elementary schools have procedures in place that are conducted in
conjunction with daily school attendance-taking procedures and that aim
to account for any pupils unexplained failure to arrive at school
through reasonable efforts to make timely contact with parents,
guardians, or caregivers;
- safe-arrival programs are developed and implemented by schools with
advice from school councils, band councils, parents, volunteers, and
other community members;
- the design of specific procedures reflects local needs and the
particular circumstances of the school and the community;
- schools, parents, school councils, band councils, and communities
work cooperatively for the successful development and implementation of
- safe-arrival programs are designed to be flexible, with a view to
achieving overall effectiveness, efficiency, and economy.
Guidance on the Design of Safe-Arrival Programs
It is suggested that safe-arrival programs be designed to reflect the
following characteristics with respect to program delivery and information
and communications. The following characteristics are intended to provide
guidance in the design of any safe-arrival programs that are developed.
- The program should be delivered in a manner that complements other
school and community safety programs and initiatives.
- The roles and responsibilities of parents, pupils, the school,
school councils, volunteers, and others should be clearly identified and
documented, and broadly communicated to all those who have an interest
in safe-arrival programs.
- The roles and responsibilities of parents and guardians, at a
minimum, could be defined as involving the following:
- Parents and guardians are responsible for their childrens
safety. Safe-arrival programs are a mechanism that parents and
schools can use to account for any pupils unexplained failure
to arrive at school;
- Parents, guardians, and caregivers are responsible for
communicating planned pupil absences or lateness to the school on a
timely basis. Their reports could be reconciled with information
obtained through classroom attendance-taking procedures to identify
any unexplained absences that require prompt follow-up contacts;
- Parents, guardians, and caregivers are responsible for providing
the school with complete and current emergency information to enable
the school to make any necessary follow-up contacts.
- Programs should take into account both normal, recurring
circumstances and unusual events and conditions. For example, regular
procedures could be modified on days when pupils are likely to arrive
late because of inclement weather or bus cancellations.
- Programs should take into account that a language other than the
language of instruction may be used in the absent pupils home.
- Programs should specify the steps that are to be taken when a
follow-up contact cannot reasonably be made.
- Individuals involved in delivering the safe-arrival program should
receive appropriate training and supervision.
- Programs should be reviewed periodically to confirm their
- Parents and volunteers can make a tremendous contribution to the
delivery of these programs. Efforts should be made to develop this
potential and to enlist the aid of parents and volunteers to help reduce
demands on the time of school administrative staff.
Information and Communications
- Information about the scope and features of the schools
safe-arrival program, and about the roles and responsibilities of all
interested parties, should be communicated clearly and effectively by
the principal to school staff, parents, guardians, caregivers, pupils,
school councils, and all volunteers and others in the community who have
an interest in the matter.
- There should be a reliable method for parents, guardians, and
caregivers to communicate planned pupil absences or lateness to the
school on a timely basis, particularly outside school hours. For
example, a voice-messaging system and, if appropriate, a telephone
device for the deaf (TTY/TDD) may have to be installed.
- A reliable system of documenting key information could be developed
and maintained. Subject to the Municipal Freedom of Information and
Protection of Privacy Act, key information could include:
- a log of calls from parents or others who report absences or
- names and current telephone numbers, in order of priority, of
parents, guardians, caregivers, or other individuals to be notified
in case of an unexplained pupil absence;
- parental consent for school staff and/or volunteers to make these
contacts, in accordance with the requirements of the Municipal
Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act;
- a log of actions taken by school staff in accordance with the
provisions of the safe-arrival program.