Though recruiting is still ongoing to fill teaching positions for public schools, education officials say they are confident that staffing will be adequate when schools open next week.
‘By and large we have most of the staffing in place,’ Permanent Secretary for Education Angela Martins said.
‘All posts haven’t been filled but we are aggressively working on that.’
According to Deputy Chief Education Officer Francine Gardener, 19 teaching positions still need to be filled, including eight classroom teachers at John Gray High School. Another eight positions, ranging from a school counsellor to various specialists, remain to be filled.
‘There’s a range of challenges,’ said Mrs. Martins. ‘Ivan is still continuing to beat us up.’
She said a key issue is affordable housing. A few teachers who were recruited have left because of high rents on the island.
‘It has not been an easy year for recruitment,’ said Chief Education Officer Nyda Flatley.
A total of 32 new teachers – including six Caymanians – have been hired to date. Once they arrive on island, teachers are put up at a hotel for one week while they search for permanent housing.
Mrs. Flatley said the majority are still searching for a place to live.
‘We are looking for reasonable accommodation for teachers. It is a challenge for us.’
Mrs. Martins agreed there’s no easy solution to the housing crunch.
‘We are sensitive to the challenges the new teachers face and we are working with them on a case-by-case basis to help them settle in as quickly as possible,’ she said.
‘It’s important for us to retain the teachers we’ve recruited.’
Mrs. Martins noted that the Ministry recently added a new human resources position dedicated specifically to education. She added the recruitment process will begin earlier next year, in February, ‘to mitigate the kind of situation we face now.’
There are more than 400 teachers in Government schools, which saw an increase in enrolment of some 200 students this year. There are around 4,000 students enrolled in the system.
Mrs. Martins and Education Minister Alden McLaughlin are inspecting schools this week, where work continues on preparing facilities.
‘Generally speaking, the physical plant is back to where it is supposed to be,’ Mr. McLaughlin said.
One concern he has is getting the modular canteen/hall facility at John Gray High School ready in time, as a shipping delay and poor weather stalled its set up.
‘But I’m still optimistic that (it will be) operational.’
Orientation for new students is 6 September. Schools open for all students 7 September.