Following Thursday’s confirmation of two positive COVID-19 cases in the Cayman Islands community, schools sent out messages emphasising existing health procedures but also taking steps to limit crowds of students indoors.
Two Clifton Hunter High School students who were identified as possibly being exposed to COVID were removed from school Thursday before testing negative for the virus.
Of course, schools’ (and the country’s) plans could change rapidly depending on the results of health officials’ further investigation into the extent of COVID community transmission — another government press briefing is scheduled for today, Friday.
But as of Friday morning, schools’ responses largely consisted of reassuring parents that they already have enhanced health procedures in place — such as frequent surface cleaning, handwashing stations and mandatory mask-wearing on school buses — and suggesting that students have the option to wear masks. Some schools are actively taking social distancing measures, such as cancelling assemblies or changing up arrangements for lunch.
Department of Education Services Director Mark Ray said in a statement Thursday evening, “Although [Clifton Hunter] didn’t need to execute all of the measures included in our Continuity of Operations Plan, it will continue to observe the health and safety protocols that have become routine in our schools since the initial onset of the COVID pandemic.”
Leaders at Theoline L. McCoy Primary School in Bodden Town said in a message posted to Facebook that “There will be no large group gatherings” and outlined plans to stagger lunch times by having some year groups eat in their classrooms while others continue to use the canteen.
Additionally, they asked that during pick-up and drop-off, that only one parent arrive and wait outside the building, rather than inside.
“Mask wearing is not mandatory for students or staff at this time but masks can be worn as a personal preference,” according to the post.
The school also canceled a whole school assembly scheduled for Friday in addition to other large group gatherings.
The school said the wearing of masks by staff and students in school classrooms and corridors “while not mandated at this time, is encouraged”.
The private St. Ignatius Catholic School sent a letter to parents stating the school was cancelling large gatherings such as assemblies, and saying that parents have the option of sending their children to school wearing masks.
As far as the Current is aware, the government has not issued uniform guidance for COVID to schools in anticipation of the planned border reopening in October.
Following Cayman’s hard lockdown last spring and summer, and continued closure of the border with strict quarantine requirements, Cayman had not previously had a confirmed case of community transmission of COVID since July 2020. Unlike other countries in the region and around the world, Cayman schools have had uninterrupted in-person learning over the past year, without having to implement school closures, targeted quarantines or virtual learning strategies.