29 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
‘Back to school’ has meant ‘back to normal’ in the Cayman Islands since schools reopened this fall. The country’s conservative approach to COVID-19 has limited infections to incoming travellers and stymied community spread of the virus. This has allowed local schools to remain open (aside from a COVID scare at Prospect Primary in mid-October), and barring an unforeseen incident, there’s no indication that closures will hit Cayman schools in the near future.
Across the region and internationally, however, Cayman’s relatively COVID-free environment is the exception not the rule. This week, we took a look at countries with close ties to Cayman and assessed how their education systems are responding to the prevalence of COVID there.
Among the 10 jurisdictions we canvassed, Cayman has the second-lowest death rate from COVID (3.3 deaths per 100,000 people), with fewer deaths only in Cuba (1.2 deaths per 100K). Cayman’s death rate was almost identical to the rate in the British Virgin Islands.
The highest death rate was in the State of New York (169.5 deaths per 100K) and next was the United Kingdom (84.4 deaths per 100K).
We also tracked confirmed COVID cases, but those numbers tend to vary more than COVID deaths, as a result of differing approaches to testing.
Here’s a rundown of school statuses in the jurisdictions we looked at:
- Cuba: Most schools reopened in September; Havana schools reopened in early November; some schools remain closed in provinces with higher COVID numbers
- BVI: Private schools, preschools and colleges reopened in September; a phased plan will see all schools reopen at the beginning of January
- Jamaica: In mid-November, 17 schools reopened in a pilot project; the government is considering how to expand reopenings to more schools
- Bermuda: Schools reopened in September with mandates on masks, social distancing etc.; students and faculty from several schools are currently in quarantine due to COVID exposure
- Canada: Different provinces have different approaches, although officials tend toward keeping schools open; recent outbreaks in Alberta resulted in a temporary shutdown of secondary schools
- Texas: The state education agency authorised individual schools to suspend in-person classes if significant numbers of teachers have contracted COVID
- Florida: Students are allowed to continue virtual learning through spring 2021; South Florida schools have no plans to close, despite steady increases in COVID since October; many universities are closing campuses until 2021
- New York: New York City recently closed its public schools, affecting 300,000 students; schools will begin reopening on a rolling basis
- UK: Schools reopened in the fall with mandates on masks, social distancing, etc.; more than half of English secondary schools and 20% of primary schools have 1 or more students in quarantine due to COVID; the government announced that university students should travel between 3-9 Dec. for the winter holidays
This week the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service issued a press release confirming reports of students age 11-1-6 engaging in “planned and organised fights at the John Gray High School, which are subsequently being posted on social media”.
We wondered whether the John Gray ‘fight club’ was an isolated phenomenon or was a common occurrence, so we did some research. We found that, while this type of behaviour is not exactly ‘usual’, similar incidences have been reported in a number of schools in the US, Canada, UK, Russia and Australia.
The exact nature of the ‘fight clubs’ varies — from organised off-campus boxing matches, to in-class fights encouraged by teachers, to blatant assaults on students who resist participating. Unless adults are involved, these matters are typically resolved by school administrators rather than the police (which appears to be the case at John Gray, so far).
A common thread in stories on this topic is that school officials say that these high-profile events are deeply troubling, but may not reflect general trends in behaviour within that particular school.
Finally, the priest in charge of St. Ignatius Catholic Church and School sent a letter to parents addressing concerns raised over the oversight and management of school finances. (If you recall, the resignation of the Head of School and reorganisation of the school board sparked unrest and discontent among many parents at the beginning of the fall semester.)
The bottom line, according to Parish Administrator Naveen D’Souza, is that “school finances are being managed prudently and carefully.” The 4-page letter contains details on the administrative structure of the school, the general status of school finances, available funding for the $6 million Sports Hall Complex, and more.
Around The Web
The Current is a central resource for education journalism by others, including regional and international news relevant to Cayman education. (Find our running collection of links here.)
- Jamaica Observer: Speid slams principals who have returned to school
- Jamaica Gleaner: Teen pregnancy warning – Expert warns that prolonged school closure could lead to more adolescent moms, unsafe abortions
- The Royal Gazette (Bermuda): Middle school hit by Covid-19 to shift to remote learning
- The Guardian (UK): New pupils barred from top UK Catholic school after abuse scandal
- The Guardian (UK): University of Surrey to lower entry grades in recognition of Covid disruption
- The Guardian (UK): Christmas Covid testing for UK students a ‘recipe for chaos’, says union
- Stabroek News (Guyana): Career teacher stuck to education in spite of trauma and tragedy
- Cayman Compass ($): Coronavirus and career paths: Launching a school
- The Guardian (UK): Manchester University students win 30% rent cut after Covid protests
- The Guardian (UK): Overseas aid budget for education cut by a quarter this year, data shows
- Jamaica Observer: 109 schools inspected and rated satisfactory for phased reopening in 2021
- The Royal Gazette (Bermuda): West End added to schools under quarantine
- Jamaica Gleaner: Former education minister arrested and charged
- Eye Witness News (Bahamas): Rotary donates $102K to digital divide initiative
- Trinidad Express ($): Sex education in primary schools worries SDMS
- Cayman Compass ($): Education and opportunity through the eyes of one high-school class
- Cayman Compass ($): In Profile: The Class of 2008
The Week Ahead
- A look at newly rebranded nonprofit Inclusion Cayman (formerly Special Needs Foundation Cayman)