Vaccinations, ventilation and virtual meetings: How Cayman’s schools are responding to COVID

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Many of Grand Cayman’s schools are taking proactive measures against COVID-19 to supplement guidance from government officials, including implementing policies on vaccinations, restricting campus visitors, or improving air purification and ventilation.

The most recent Ministry of Education guidance document has a list of mandatory instructions for schools, such as:

  • Isolating students who exhibit COVID symptoms,
  • Mandatory mask-wearing for faculty and students over the age of 5,
  • Enhanced cleaning procedures,
  • Hand-washing,
  • Social distancing of at least 6 feet where possible,
  • No drinking from communal water fountains, and
  • No sharing of food.

Many schools are doing more. For example, Island Montessori mandated that all staff receive COVID vaccinations, and further stipulated that all adults must be vaccinated in order to enter the school.

“All businesses that we use for external services must send a vaccinated representative,” said Clare Thorpe, Director/Principal of Island Montessori.

Thorpe noted that the vaccine mandate for existing faculty was unnecessary because all staff received the jab when they were eligible, and that the mandate is for new staff.

She said her school is following recommendations from Public Health England, in addition to Cayman’s. Other measures include installing air purification systems in all classrooms, having separate entrances for classes, using outdoor learning environments and checking students’ temperatures on arrival.

Thorpe has been a strong advocate against mandatory mask-wearing for primary school children, starting a petition on the subject to the Cayman Islands Government. Among other things, the petition states that younger children do not wear the masks properly and that the UK does not currently recommend wearing masks in primary schools.

Tiffany Jeremiah, Acting Principal of Calvary Baptist Christian Academy, said her school has implemented daily temperature checks, suspended all indoor sports activities, restricted PTA meeting attendance to one parent per household and replaced in-person parent-teacher meetings (and chapel service for students) with virtual gatherings.

The school has instituted a drop box system for lunch collection and has barred parents from going past the school office.

Jeremiah also shared a copy of the school’s initial COVID response plan. (View it here.)

“We began masking before the government regulations because this is easy. All but one parent were in full agreement,” said Bernice Scott, Principal of Grace Christian Academy.

“Students are taken outside during the day to catch a breather from masking,” she said.

Scott said student class groups are kept in ‘bubbles’ and students must wipe down their own desks three times a day.

The school also has air purification systems in many classrooms, and classroom windows are kept open to improve ventilation.

“We are implementing a health certificate for parents to complete and email weekly,” Scott said, noting that school staff were tested for COVID in August and September, and many students ages 12 and older have been vaccinated.

Some schools are sticking to Cayman’s local rulebook. The government issued its directives following recent community transmission of COVID that, as of Tuesday evening, had spread to students in 8 schools plus at least 2 preschools.

“We are following the government guidance as required,” said Emma Kendall, School Director of Footsteps.

Other schools are — like parents and indeed all of Cayman’s residents — finding themselves having to play it by ear as the COVID situation evolves and the government’s guidance changes.

One local school leader said, “We do have COVID plans in place, but I will be honest and state that they are ever-changing based on each day’s events.”

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