***Editor’s Note: Due to the impact of COVID-19, the Office of Education Standards is conducting one-day ‘thematic visits’ to Cayman Islands schools in the Spring 2022 term in lieu of more in-depth inspections. (Click to expand.)
(Read our story on the decision here.) OES recently published the first batch of reports from these visits, which will eventually involve 31 government and private schools and culminate in a national report. The Current will publish a story on each individual school, as well as stories from a more comprehensive perspective.***
Staff at the specialist Lighthouse School have found creative ways during the pandemic to serve their students, all of whom have moderate to profound Special Education Needs and/or Disabilities, an Office of Education Standards inspector said.
Despite the efforts of senior leaders, the additional workload related to COVID-19 has left staff feeling “beyond exhausted”, according to a letter to Acting Principal Janice Headley from Senior Inspector Carol Bennett.
“Senior Leaders, staff and contracted personnel worked together to create a compassionate and professional ethos throughout the school where the welfare of each child was a priority,” Bennett said.
The visit to the school occurred on 23 March and the inspector’s summary is dated 25 March.
“We did not find any significant concerns” during the school visit, the inspector said.
Unlike full inspection reports, the inspectors do not assign graded judgments to schools as a result of the one-day visits. Inspectors conduct interviews with school leadership, teachers and administration, as well as reviewing documentation.
“Integration into the community was restricted during the pandemic, therefore, staff were creative in finding ways for students to gain work experience. The result was school based business enterprises that included a café and car wash. The packaging and distribution of the Lateral Flow Test kits was also completely managed by students as a business enterprise,” Bennett said.
Before students returned to school from lockdown in September 2021, the school produced videos “which helped prepare them for new expectations due to COVID-19, such as bubble groups, proper handwashing procedures and wearing masks. These videos were shared with parents before school started so that they could begin to prepare their children,” the inspector said.
In addition to hand-washing and mask-wearing, school janitors sanitised high-touch areas on an hourly basis, and students were separated into class bubble groups.
The bubble groups facilitated social distancing and also lessened ‘behavioural incidences’, staff told the inspector.
“The Senior School Improvement Officer shared that many of the measures were in place at the school prior to COVID-19 so the demands of sanitisation and cleaning due to COVID-19 had much less of an impact compared to other schools,” Bennett said.
A school counsellor provided support to students and staff, and referrals to community mental health providers were made as needed.
“While Senior Leaders reported that support was arranged for persons who had appointments, staff reported that they felt as if the demands at the school did not allow them time to access mental health services,” the inspector said.
Although school leaders had attempted to reduce administrative tasks for teachers, staff had additional burdens due to remote learning, which required adaptations to each student’s particular needs.
“Senior Leaders shared that they had provided well-being initiatives for the staff. These included wellness activities during inset days. Staff, however, shared that they were ‘beyond exhausted’ and, while the attempts of Senior Leaders were appreciated, they never did feel as if they were able to recover from the exhaustion,” Bennett said.