11 Oct. 2020
Weekly Current (archived version)
Thanks for reading, and thanks for caring about education! Welcome to this week’s newsletter on education news in the Cayman Islands.
Week In Review
They say ‘no news is good news’. That’s certainly been true in regard to the absence of COVID-19 cases in the Cayman Islands community. However, last Friday we saw how quickly things can change, as a Year 2 student at Red Bay Primary School tested positive for COVID while showing symptoms of respiratory illness.
It could have been worse — the student had not attended school since the previous Friday, 2 Oct., due in part to the near-passage of Hurricane Delta causing schools to close on Monday and Tuesday, 5 and 6 Oct.
Health officials responded swiftly to the positive test. On Friday, they tested more than 200 of Red Bay’s Year 2 students, teachers and household members (and also employees of the Needs Assessment Unit, where one of the COVID-positive student’s parents works). On Saturday, the government announced all those tests had come back ‘negative’.
Cayman’s schools are set to reopen as usual on Monday — although Red Bay Year 2 students, teachers, and household members must quarantine at home until 16 Oct. (two weeks after the last possible contact with the COVID-positive student).
- The student tested ‘weakly’ positive for COVID, indicating very low levels of the virus. So low, in fact, that the determining factor for officials to classify this as a positive test was because the student had symptoms of respiratory illness.
- Family members of the student also had symptoms, but their COVID tests came back negative.
- Follow-up tests on the student have come back as negative for COVID.
- Two scenarios for the ‘weakly’ positive COVID test:
- The student was on the trailing end of a COVID infection;
- The student had a common cold.
Over at St. Ignatius Catholic School, which is experiencing unrest after the school board was shaken up and the Head of School resigned, a parents group has taken complaints about school governance directly to the Cayman Islands government, citing a lack of response from church leaders. (Read our story here.) (The Cayman Compass later reported on the issue.)
The Office of Education Standards published its new framework for school inspections, beginning January 2021. OES Director Peter Carpenter (whom we interviewed in September, here and here) said some schools “will need to function much more effectively in order to meet the expected requirements of the Cayman Government.” (To find out about key changes made in the new framework, including an emphasis on tracking the progress of Caymanian students, read our story here.)
Finally, this week we published the first part of an interview with Prospect Primary School Principal Matthew Read. (Here’s Part One.)
Some highlights from the interview:
- “Going through January and February there was the threat, the dawning realisation that the virus was creeping across the planet, and it was coming our way, and it was a matter of time before it got here.”
- “On March 13 when principals were called together, and we sat down and we were told that schools would be closed on the Monday — that caught us quicker than we were perhaps expecting.”
- Uneven access to technology was a major hurdle to instituting virtual learning. The school delivered 150 laptops in 3 weeks to students. “That was nowhere near enough.”
- Every student now has a Microsoft Teams account, and by Christmas every student will have a laptop.
- “Should we have to shut down again, we can move literally overnight to that model whereby we’re using Teams as our core delivery method, rather than having to use a mix of media to do it.”
Around The Web
The Current is a central resource for education journalism by others, including regional and international news relevant to Cayman education. (Find our running collection of links here.)
- Miami Herald ($): Miami-Dade Schools offering free meals through year’s end to all of its students
- Cayman News Service: No sign of outbreak re school COVID-19 case
- Cayman Compass: No community transmission after student tests positive
- Cayman Compass ($): Staff resignations hit St. Ignatius Catholic School
- Cayman Compass ($): New school inspection framework released
- Cayman News Service: School inspections to focus on local students
- Cayman Compass ($): Students recognised for academics, community service
- The Guardian (UK): Scotland’s National 5 exams to be cancelled next year
- The Guardian (UK): Covid: three universities halt face-to-face teaching as UK strategy unravels
- The Guardian (UK): Department for Education’s handling of pupil data ruled illegal
- Miami Herald ($): An inside look at how a Miami school welcomed back students on its first day of classes
- Miami Herald ($): FSU president and his wife test positive for COVID-19
- BVI Beacon: Government awards first scholarships since Hurricane Irma
- Jamaica Gleaner: Williams touts new approach to education
- Jamaica Observer: Not so smooth start to new school year in western Jamaica
The Week Ahead
- Interview with Matthew Read, Principal, Prospect Primary School, cont’d.
- Interview with Juliet Austin, the new Executive Director of LIFE
- A look at Cayman’s homeschooling numbers