First Baptist cuts classes

First Baptist Christian School will cut grades 7 and 8 from the beginning of the next school year in September, to the chagrin of parents who say they were not consulted on the decision.

Pastor Thabiti Anyabwile of the First Baptist Church, said in a press release: ‘It is with heavy sense of responsibility that we announce that at the end of the 2008-09 school year, we will no longer operate grades 7 and 8.

‘We understand the real difficulties and stress this poses for the families who now need to make alternative schooling arrangements for their children.’

Pastor Anyabwile informed parents that the church elders and the school board had taken the decision to cut the middle school in a letter sent on Friday, and invited them to a meeting on Monday.

He told them in the letter that ‘without substantial increases in enrollment and fees… we will not offer grades 7 and 8 in the upcoming school year.

Parent Mrs. Pam Parsons said she was so upset by the decision and the way it was handled that she is pulling her fourth grade son out of the school and leaving the church.

‘I think this is going in exactly the opposite direction of where they need to go,’ she said, adding that Cayman needed more middle and high schools for children, not fewer.

‘They did this without consulting anybody in the school, not the students, the teachers nor the parents.

‘I don’t understand why they held the meeting on Monday. They did not agree to a grace period to give kids time to move on. Basically, the decision was made and was not open to discussion,’ said Mrs. Parsons whose three children have attended First Baptist.

Several parents spoke of their opposition to the decision at the emotionally charged meeting on Monday.

Mrs. Parsons told the Caymanian Compass: ‘It was done behind closed doors… they didn’t do a survey, or a cost analysis or feasibility study.’

Another parent at the school, who asked not to be named because of fears his child might face victimised, said he was also appalled at the school’s lack of transparency over its decision.

‘The most upsetting thing is there’s not really enough time for parents to find another school for their children in six or seven months. And secondly, the school board has taken its own decision without even consulting the parents,’ he said.

‘This is a small island, the options are limited,’ he added.

According to the press release, the school, based in Red Bay, would focus now on the ‘making a big impact and building a last foundation’ for children in the first 10 to 12 years of their lives.

‘The new focus on kindergarten to grade 6 will tighten the transition from early education to elementary school,’ Pastor Anyabwile said.

The school has 16 children in Year 6 who would have gone into Year 7 in the next school year, and 12 children in Year 7. The school has more 90 children in total.

Pastor Anyabwile insisted that the decision to cut grades 7 and 8 was not based on the quality of the students or the teachers’ work.’

Asked if the school would expand its kindergarten services, the pastor replied: ‘With the focus on K-6 at FBCS, there is potential for expanding the preschool services. But at present, there is no plan to do so. We are working deliberately to ensure an effective transition to K-6 and to care for students and families affected by the transition.’

The school offers a WEE Care programme for children from birth to five years, and it is one of the most popular kindergartens on the island.

Pre-school and daycare options in Grand Cayman have been in the spotlight lately with the closure of one pre-school – First Steps – in December, and the threatened closure of another – Kids Adventures – due to a lack of premises.