31 Oct. 2021 (Halloween)
Weekly Current (archived version)
Quick-response COVID tests aim to keep schools open. Update on Red Bay Primary investigation. New public school capacity figures for September 2021. Tourism officials sponsor hospitality courses.
Welcome to this week’s newsletter on education in the Cayman Islands.
Week In Review
In an effort to maintain in-person learning environments, ‘isolation’ is being replaced by ‘surveillance’ when COVID-19 cases are reported in local schools.
According to a pair of guidance documents published by the government Friday, if a student tests positive for COVID, their classmates and teachers will no longer have to go into quarantine, but rather will take daily rapid-result lateral flow tests for a set period of time. As long as those tests are negative, those individuals will be able to attend school.
Premier Wayne Panton said, “COVID-19 spreads rapidly, and can cause societal disruption and severe strain on healthcare systems. The Government’s introduction of lateral flow tests will assist in quickly identifying positive cases via a more scalable and accessible option, which does not create additional pressure on the healthcare system, while also limiting the number of people having to go into required isolation, which is less disruptive for the community. People still need to earn a living, and children still need to access education services even as we do our best to stay safe and learn to live with the virus.”
New isolation periods for COVID-positive individuals and surveillance periods for their ‘primary contacts’ can vary depending on a person’s age and vaccination status.
As COVID-19 continues to take root in the community and the rapid-response tests have become available, public health officials are changing their strategic response, including by introducing proactive ‘screening’ for COVID in schools.
The screening programme is not mandatory, but is recommended by government, which will provide the testing kits free-of-charge. Schools participating in the screening should conduct tests twice a week, with tests taking at least 3 days apart.
Conversely, the ‘surveillance’ programme kicks in when a child or teacher tests positive for COVID.
If a student (or teacher) tests positive for COVID, then their classmates must enter a surveillance period of 10 days, where they take a daily lateral flow test and can continue to attend school as long as the results are negative.
There have been reports of a scarcity of lateral flow tests in Cayman, and it is unclear whether the government will be providing free test kits for the surveillance programme, as it is for the screening programme.
On this week’s episode of EdBeat, Patrick Brendel of the Cayman Current and April Cummings of Cayman Life TV discuss the new COVID strategy and its implications. Also, a ‘ghost in the machine’ marks Halloween by shutting down Patrick’s computer. And there’s cake!
Nearly six months since law enforcement began looking into reports of alleged misconduct toward students at Red Bay Primary School, the investigation “is still ongoing”.
One week after the fall midterm break, the acting principal remains Ryan Dale, in place of longtime principal Vickie Frederick, a Ministry of Education spokesperson confirmed Wednesday.
Back in May, education officials announced that police and Department of Children and Family Services had been contacted about allegations at Red Bay Primary and that staff reported to be involved were being “relocated from schools until the investigation is completed”.
We’ll keep checking in on this until the matter is resolved.
We’ve revisited our earlier analysis of public school enrolment and capacity to reflect September 2021 student numbers.
Similar to what we reported back in March, Grand Cayman’s public secondary schools are at more than 90% of their maximum capacity, meaning they could accommodate fewer than 150 additional students who wish to enrol
There is comparatively less crowding in Grand Cayman’s primary schools (at 72% capacity).
The most-crowded primary schools are Prospect Primary School (90%), Red Bay Primary School (81%) and George Town Primary School (80%).
Systemwide, schools on Grand Cayman could accommodate nearly 1,200 extra students, while Sister Islands schools could accommodate nearly 350 extra students.
More from the Current
- Ministry of Tourism and CIDOT sponsor hospitality courses in readiness for reopening
- Education Minister: Anti-bullying Month Message
- Institutions Reminded to Register
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.)
- Eye Witness News (Bahamas): SRI, UWI & FIU partner to create the Gordon ‘Butch’ Stewart International School of Hospitality and Tourism
- The Guardian (UK): University tuition fees could be cut to £8,500, say sources
- The Royal Gazette (Bermuda): Big business funds fast coronavirus tests for schools
- Jamaica Observer: ‘School bell ring’ and it couldn’t come too soon!
- Jamaica Observer: Back to school
- Jamaica Observer: Back to basics
- Jamaica Gleaner: Infant schools gear up to reopen
- The Virgin Islands Daily News: Board approves plan for students to resume in-person learning soon
- The Virgin Islands Daily News: Senate committee advances bill to ban corporal punishment
- Eye Witness News (Bahamas): BUYER’S REMORSE: Outgoing UB pres “deeply regrets” decision to leave; asks for contract to be extended
- Stabroek News (Guyana): An investment in education can fuel the Caribbean’s growth
The Week Ahead
- EdBeat: Episode 21