1 Nov. 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
The big news this week is a very big number: $160 million (or more!) — which is how much the Cayman Islands government may end up spending on the new John Gray High School project.
During Wednesday’s meeting of the Finance Committee, Opposition Leader Arden McLean asked for the total cost of the new school project. In response, a Ministry of Education official said Cabinet had approved funding in the amount of $106.2 million. Add that figure to the approximately $54.4 million that had been spent on the new John Gray site before it was shuttered in 2012, and you come up with a total cost of $160.6 million.
(But there’s more!) However, if you also add in the $8.8 million that was spent on the John Gray gymnasium, after the school project was restarted in 2016 but before the current Cabinet was enshrined in 2017 … the total cost of the new John Gray High School would be $169.4 million.
That number is subject to change. We can categorise the $169.4 million into three pots of money, ‘already spent’, ‘under contract’, and ‘funding approved’, with differing degrees of variability:
- ‘Already spent’ — $63.2 million (firm)
- $54.4 million for construction before work stoppage in 2012
- $8.8 million for new John Gray gym, completed in 2017
- ‘Under contract’ — $76.4 million (squishier)
- ‘Project A’: actual completion of new John Gray High School
- Portions of the new school are scheduled to open in August 2021; entire school set to open in August 2022
- Could end up under budget, or, as has been more likely in past projects, subject to cost overruns
- ‘Funding approved’ — $29.8 million (squishiest)
- ‘Project B’: refurbishment of the existing John Gray site and relocation of the Cayman Islands Further Education Centre and other education entities
- Refurbishment and relocation will occur after completion of Project A in August 2022
- ‘Project C’: demolition of the existing CIFEC campus and provision of playing fields for the new John Gray school
- Demolition will occur after completion of Project B
- Contracts have not been awarded yet
Opposition Leader McLean appeared less-than-pleased when the total budget was revealed.
He said, “The total cost to this country for that school is going to be closer to $200 million … That’s got to be tied around somebody’s neck, inside here … This school started a long time ago, you know. This school needs to be the millstone ’round somebody’s neck.”
No matter how you slice it, or how you view it, $169.4 million is a lot of money for a high school, in Cayman or elsewhere. That amount, for example, dwarfs the total estimated cost of Clifton Hunter High School, $110 million.
Looking to the US, the new John Gray High School would rank among the most expensive high schools ever built, at least according to this list put together by Public School Review.
- US$578 million, Robert F. Kennedy Community Schools, Los Angeles, Calif., > 4,000 students
- US$377 million, Edward R. Roybal Learning Center, Los Angeles, Calif., 2,500 students
- US$232 million, Central No. 9 Visual and Performing Arts High School, Los Angeles, Calif., 1,200 students
- US$203 million, new John Gray High School, Cayman, 1,200 students
- US$197.5 million, Newton North High School, Massachusetts, 1,865 students
- US$185 million, New Brunswick High School, New Jersey, 1,300 students
One more benchmark. The brand-new Miami Palmetto Senior High School is undergoing a reconstruction project, where a new high school will be built, in conjunction with the old high school being demolished. The school has an enrolment of about 2,800 students (more than double John Gray’s), and the total budget for the project is US$49.4 million (less than a quarter of John Gray’s).
Of course, it’s difficult to compare building costs across jurisdictions, particularly in Cayman. In the coming days we’ll be working more on this topic.
Before we move on to another subject, we’ll point you to Cayman News Service, where contributor Johann Moxam wrote a viewpoint on the new John Gray project, saying the country deserves answers about the funding of the high school construction. In the viewpoint, he states that Dart built the new Cayman International School high school for $60 million.
Well … it’s not a $170 million high school, but parents, students and faculty over at Theoline L. McCoy Primary School in Bodden Town will be happy to hear that a long-awaited school hall is set to go to procurement next month, with construction beginning in early 2021. (Read the story here.)
In the month of October, the country’s three public high schools celebrated the graduating class of 2020. We pulled together some highlights and images of the commencement ceremonies for John Gray, Clifton Hunter and Layman E. Scott. (Read the story here.)
In the first school inspection report to be released since the COVID-19 closures in the spring, Treasure Garden Preschool achieved a ‘Satisfactory’ (passing) grade from the Office of Education Standards. (Read the story here.)
Finally, the Peter N. Thomson Family Scholars have been announced. A group of 16 Caymanians are receiving up to $2,500 per year apiece to study at University College of the Cayman Islands. (Read the press release here.)
Around The Web
The Current is a central resource for education journalism by others, including regional and international news relevant to Cayman education. (Find our running collection of links here.)
- Jamaica Observer: Old boys lash Educate Jamaica over ranking system
- The Guardian (UK): Lessons from Estonia: why it excels at digital learning during Covid
- BVI Beacon: Some students return to school this week
- Miami Herald ($): More than 1,000 Miami students are likely under a COVID quarantine, teachers union says
- Jamaica Gleaner: Ruling in Reid, Pinnock corruption case for December
- Loop Cayman: Thomson Leadership and Innovation Award recipients announced
- Cayman News Service: School project spending blurred in budget
- Jamaica Observer: Education needs more than mere ‘commitment’
- Jamaica Gleaner: Editorial | Transparency in protocols for classroom teaching
- Miami Herald ($): Confirmed COVID cases in Miami-Dade schools tops 250, while Broward nears 150
- Cayman Compass ($): Students getting almost 3,000 laptops
The Week Ahead
- New John Gray High School cost, in context
- A look at the Cayman Islands library system and its role in 21st century education
- Analysis of the independent review of CXC exam results