The three new planned high schools will provide Class A hurricane shelter to 4,560 people, almost doubling the spaces available.
The matter of hurricane shelters came up in Finance Committee last week during discussion about the cost of new high schools. Minister of Education Alden McLaughlin has said constructing the schools so they can also serve as hurricane shelters will add more than $25 million to the combined cost if the projects.
The new John Gray campus will offer shelter to 1,840 people, and the Clifton Hunter and Beulah Smith campuses will both shelter 1,360 people.
Because the shelter aspects of the schools will be separated from the classrooms, schools could reopen sooner than they could under the current arrangements at other schools.
‘We needed to get our schools up and running,’ Mr. McLaughlin told the Finance Committee, adding that after a major hurricane it would be inevitable that some people would need to stay on in the shelter because their homes were either destroyed or too badly damaged.
Leader of the Opposition McKeeva Bush questioned whether it was wise to have children going to school at the same facility where adults displaced by a hurricane were living.
‘It’s not going to be a perfect arrangement,’ Mr. McLaughlin responded. ‘But it will be a much, much better situation then what we had [after Hurricane Ivan] when schools essentially couldn’t operate.’
Shelter facilities at the new schools will included the gymnasiums, the performance buildings and the global learning centres.
Currently, the recommended capacity of Grand Cayman’s Class A hurricane shelters is 4,335, with John Gray having 265 of those spaces.
With an estimated population of some 52,000 people, less than eight per cent of Grand Cayman’s residents could stay in a shelter for a hurricane.
The recommended capacity is based on a reasonable space allotment of approximately 15 square feet per person; however the capacity could be increased at the discretion of the shelter wardens.
When the new schools are completed, the recommended capacity of the hurricane shelters will increase to approximately 8,630 people.