19 Sept. 2021
Weekly Current (archived version)
Masks mandated in public schools. Government still drafting specific COVID-19 response plan. George Town Primary School remains closed due to outbreak. EdBeat discussion about homeschooling.
Welcome to this week’s newsletter on education in the Cayman Islands.
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Week In Review
Well that escalated quickly.
A full year of uninterrupted in-person learning at Cayman Islands schools came to an abrupt conclusion as George Town Primary School was shuttered due to an outbreak of COVID-19.
As of Saturday morning, a total of 18 students had tested positive for COVID, along with 3 adults. So far, there haven’t been any cases in other schools.
(Read our story that has updates from throughout the week on the George Town Primary outbreak here.)
On Sunday, the government issued a directive that all students and staff at public schools must wear masks.
They must wear masks “while riding the bus, moving through the school compound, while indoors, and while in a group setting”.
They can take the masks off “when playing outdoors, eating, or working independently at their desk”.
The statement does not mention private schools.
Beyond the new mask policy, the government hasn’t revealed the details of its COVID response for schools.
On Friday afternoon, Chief Medical Officer Dr. John Lee said the government didn’t have a finalised plan for how schools will respond to future COVID cases in students.
So far, students have tested positive for COVID in two instances — last week in George Town Primary, and last year in Red Bay Primary. Both times, the government closed the schools.
Asked if there was an official ‘trigger point’ for when schools would be closed due to COVID going forward, Dr. Lee said the government is creating “more detailed plans” for future responses.
He said, “There’s a draft that’s already being circulated. I don’t have it to share with you today, but that plan is being drawn up.”
(Read our story on Friday’s government briefing here.)
If you want to assess the government’s potential response, you can take a look at the Ministry of Education’s COVID guidance document, which has been published online.
The document lays out a number of mandatory measures to be taken in schools, pending ‘activation’ by the Ministry or Public Health officials (which except for masks, hasn’t happened yet).
Other actions include social distancing of at least 3 feet, and implementing curbside drop-off and pick-up of students.
The guidance calls for masks to be worn by all students who can wear them independently, with no minimum age for students. A spokesperson said the Ministry would be guided by Public Health on that matter.
Age guidelines on mask-wearing vary in different jurisdictions, with the World Health Organisation recommending that children 5 and under do not wear masks, and UK ages ranging from 5 in Scotland, to 11 in England or Wales, to 13 in Northern Ireland.
(Read our story on the Ministry’s guidance here.)
In a Viewpoint commentary, a local educator said primary school children should not be required to wear masks because younger children “touch them constantly and move them around and this itself is more of a hygiene risk than distancing and hand/social hygiene etiquette”.
In this week’s episode of EdBeat, Patrick Brendel of the Cayman Current and April Cummings of Cayman Life TV are joined by Kathleen Spencer of Homeschool Cayman.
Spencer talks about the advantages and realities of homeschooling, the recent growth in homeschooling locally, the variety of options available for homeschooling, and how COVID has impacted homeschooling routines (hint: not that much).
(Watch EdBeat: Episode 14 here.)
***Editor’s Note: Last week we gave a sneak preview of the first ‘Current Event‘ tentatively scheduled for 29 Sept. In light of the uncertainty due to COVID and the as-yet-unannounced regulations from government, that date is looking less and less likely. If government issues an advisory Monday or Tuesday that gives us the green light, then we will still aim for 29 Sept. If not … we’ll have to go back to the drawing board. Supporters of the Current will get first dibs on all opportunities to attend future events. Become an Individual Supporter of the Current by making a donation in any amount.***
More from the Current
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.)
- Cayman Compass: Government issues new mask mandate for all public schools
- Cayman Compass: Another George Town Primary student tests positive for COVID-19
- Cayman News Service: One more GTPS student COVID positive
- Cayman Compass: Nine more George Town Primary School students test positive
- Cayman News Service: Nine more GTPS kids COVID-19 positive
- Cayman Compass: Local COVID cases rise to 17, including 10 children
- Cayman News Service: Seven more GTPS kids positive for COVID
- Cayman Compass: COVID anxiety casts shadow over school opening
- Cayman Compass: George Town Primary student tests positive for COVID
- Cayman Compass: COVID-19: What is the risk to children?
- Cayman News Service: PWD training 33 new apprentices
- The Royal Gazette (Bermuda): Public schools to stay shut after increase in Covid-19 cases
- The Royal Gazette (Bermuda): Two private schools move pupils to remote learning, another bar closes
- The Royal Gazette (Bermuda): Pressure group questions mandatory masks in classrooms
- San Antonio Express-News: Commentary: Cut the politics, implement plans to keep kids in school – safely
- The Guardian (UK): Online-only learning not worth £9K tuition, OECD warns UK universities
- The Royal Gazette (Bermuda): Schools revamp mastermind sought
The Week Ahead
- Concerns about racial divisions in the Cayman Islands school system
- EdBeat: Episode 15
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