New high schools a year away

The construction of three new government high schools for Grand Cayman, at Frank Sound, West Bay and George Town (re-developing of John Gray), is still a year away from groundbreaking.

‘I doubt it will happen before September of next year,’ said Minister for Education Alden McLaughlin at the People’s Progressive Movement’s National Council meeting Monday evening in West Bay.

This is because, he explained, the planning of these schools is complex and is a time consuming exercise.

However, the fact that the schools are being developed as smaller teaching units in a larger campus means that it will allow for flexibility in the modular concept.

This will allow for the building of the schools in stages, he said.

For example, the number of modules needed for the said district can be built initially, and additional modules built later. They are designed to deal with growth, he said.

Speaking about developments at George Hicks High School, Mr. McLaughlin said that excitement and optimism about the newly structured school is causing more and more parents of children going to private schools to want to change and go to the government facility.

‘We’re already having difficulty with this,’ he said.

The aim at George Hicks is to have four schools within the one campus, with each school having no more than 250 students.

If the numbers were to get beyond 250 per school, it would defeat the purpose of the small schools system, and spiralling numbers would cause the schools to revert to the same old problems, he said.

Therefore, some other way would have to be found to look after any excess students.

Minister McLaughlin explained that the concept centres on four schools in one campus. There will be four school leaders (principals) and a director will oversee the buildings.

Each school will have its own uniform and each leader will have the flexibility in how teaching is imparted at that school.

‘What matters is that the children learn and results are achieved,’ he said.

The students of each of the four schools will be in a separate fenced facility for most of the school day, but will share a canteen, he said.

A discipline policy is also being developed and Mr. McLaughlin warned that if children do not come into a school in a proper, clean, fitting uniform they will be sent home. The Minister said he will take issue with the parents of children who stay away from school for any length of time. If parents cannot afford to buy uniforms there is also a procedure to deal with that, he said.

Mr. McLaughlin said he is confident all will be in order with George Hicks’ restructuring for the start of this school year.

A question from a member of the public asked Mr. McLaughlin how students will be distributed this year at the school.

He answered that previously children were divided as equally as possible so there was an equal mix of all abilities in each house. This will continue in the separate schools. The policy of keeping siblings at the same school will also continue, he said.

‘I’m very conscious of the need to keep balance in all of the schools,’ he said.