10 Oct. 2021
Weekly Current (archived version)
COVID-19 spread shuts down all public schools on Grand Cayman. Private schools share their responses to community spread of the virus. New Prospect Primary principal resigns. UCCI hands out scholarships.
Welcome to this week’s newsletter on education in the Cayman Islands.
Week In Review
What’s that word again? … Oh, yeah: ‘Surprise!’
After about a week of following new COVID-19 protocols aimed at keeping physical schools open, the government changed tack again, and ordered the closure of all 11 public schools on Grand Cayman.
Much like they did with the late-night decision to mandate mask-wearing in public places, government officials announced on Wednesday evening that Clifton Hunter and John Gray High Schools would not be opening on Thursday morning.
Public primary schools, as well as Lighthouse School and the Cayman Islands Further Education Centre, shut their doors Monday, 11 Oct.
On the Sister Islands (where there haven’t been COVID cases), schools will operate as usual and close on Thursday, 14 Oct. for the regularly scheduled fall midterm break.
All public schools are set to reopen 25 Oct.
The government has indicated that after the midterm break, a strategy will be employed using quick-turnaround ‘lateral flow’ COVID tests. Details of the testing strategy “would be rolled out in due course”, according to a government press release.
Here are some observations we have on the ‘bringing forward’ of the midterm break:
- To our knowledge, only one private school (First Baptist Christian School) has followed government’s lead and closed for the break early.
- Citing concerns about schools not having adequate staff to operate properly, Education Minister Juliana O’Connor-Connolly said COVID isolations had reduced Clifton Hunter and John Gray staff by 16 teachers. The two high schools have about 200 teaching and support staff altogether.
- Since the beginning of the pandemic, millions of dollars have been spent buying laptops, providing broadband access and creating policies on virtual learning for public schools. However, this closure is not a shift to virtual learning — it is an extended holiday from school altogether.
- There are 11 public schools on Grand Cayman. By our count, there have been no documented COVID cases in 5 of those schools.
Patrick Brendel of the Cayman Current and April Cummings of Cayman Life TV talk more about the public school closures, and other topics, on this week’s episode of EdBeat.
Turning our attention away from public schools, many of Grand Cayman’s private 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.
Island Montessori mandated that all staff receive COVID vaccinations, and further stipulated that all adults must be vaccinated in order to enter the school, including vendors and service providers.
Calvary Baptist Christian Academy has implemented daily temperature checks and replaced in-person meetings (such as parent-teacher conferences and chapel service for students) with virtual gatherings.
Grace Christian Academy implemented a masking policy before government stipulated it, and has focussed on improving air quality in classrooms through purification systems and the age-old solution of opening windows when possible.
One local school leader told us they’re rolling with the punches as the situation evolves, saying, “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.”
A couple of items to wrap up the COVID news.
First, public high schools have delayed their graduation ceremonies after COVID postponed the release of CXC exam results.
And second, the University College of the Cayman Islands has pushed back the STEM Carib Conference due to COVID regulations. The event was set for 3-5 Nov. It will now be held in Spring 2022.
Patricia Taylor has resigned as principal of Prospect Primary School just one month into her tenure.
Taylor was formerly the primary school principal of Cayman Prep and High School. She had replaced Matthew Read as principal of Prospect.
The acting principal of Prospect is Joylyn Ebanks-King.
More from the Current
- UCCI presents more than $100,000 in scholarships to 81 students
- UCCI honours 170 students at annual convocation
- 3D Printing and Virtual Reality Workshop for Teens this October
Around The Web
The Current is a central resource for education journalism by others, including regional and international news relevant to Cayman education. (Find our running collection of links here.)
- Cayman Compass ($): The Resh Hour with Mark Ray, Department of Education Services
- Cayman Compass ($): First Baptist moves up midterm break as more students test positive
- Cayman Compass ($): COVID-19 testing for Prospect Primary Year 6 on Tuesday
- Cayman Life TV:What do you tell your family 30 years from now?
- The New York Times ($): English Schools Drop Mask Mandates, but Questions Rise Along With Cases
- Intelligencer (NY Mag): The Science of Masking Kids at School Remains Uncertain
- The Royal Gazette (Bermuda): More than 20 public schools pass testing threshold for classroom teaching
- The Royal Gazette (Bermuda): Eleven schools reach screening threshold – some reopen today
- The Guardian (UK): English private school fees 90% higher than state school spending per pupil
The Week Ahead
- How COVID-19 is impacting local NPOs
- EdBeat: Episode 18