The new John Gray High School project is on track to cost $160 million, according to the Cayman Islands Ministry of Education.
Under questioning Wednesday in Finance Committee from Opposition Leader Arden McLean, the ministry’s Deputy Chief Officer Wilbur Welcome said the total funding approved by Cabinet for the new high school is $106.2 million. That’s in addition to the approximately $54 million that was spent on the project as of 2012 — when work was suspended until 2016.
Of the $106.2 million, about $76.4 million is earmarked for the actual completion of the new John Gray High School (called ‘Project A’).
The remainder goes toward to ‘Project B’ — the refurbishment of the existing John Gray site and relocation of the Cayman Islands Further Education Centre and other education entities; and ‘Project C’ — the demolition of the existing CIFEC campus and provision of playing fields for the new John Gray school.
The budget for Project B is $12.1 million. However, as Welcome noted in his statements before the Legislative Assembly committee, the only contract that has been awarded thus far is for Project A.
Welcome said the project is on budget and the ministry is not anticipating any cost overruns at this time.
During the committee hearing on supplementary appropriations to the government’s current budget, Opposition Leader McLean asked, “When is it that this school will be finished, and what will the overall cost be to have this school totally occupied?”
Answering on behalf of Education Minister Juliana O’Connor-Connolly, Welcome said the new high school campus will open in 2 phases: In August 2021, portions will open for special education, administration, technical and vocational education training, and performing arts. In August 2022, the rest of the school will open.
Welcome said the total funding approved by this administration for Projects A, B and C is $106 million.
McLean said, “That’s what we intend spending on it. Good. Now let’s go back. The total cost to this country for that school is going to be closer to $200 million.”
McLean continued, “That’s got to be tied around somebody’s neck, inside here.”
He said, “This school started a long time ago, you know. This school needs to be the millstone ’round somebody’s neck.”
The new John Gray project was initially part of a plan to build 3 new high schools in Grand Cayman — along with Beulah Smith in West Bay and Clifton Hunter in Frank Sound. (The Beulah Smith school barely got off the drawing board before being shelved.)
In 2008 the government signed a contract to build Clifton Hunter and John Gray. After a well-documented series of disputes between the government and contractors, Clifton Hunter opened in 2012.
The total estimated cost for the Clifton Hunter project was $110 million.