High School space sufficient

An increase in the student density
of government high school academies will create enough space for students in
the 2010/11 school year, even without two new high schools coming on line.

 But Education Ministry officials said that even
with the two new high schools expected to open sometime during the 2010/11
school year, it could soon become a tight squeeze to accommodate everyone.

“Space should be sufficient in the
short term,” said Education Ministry Chief Officer Mary Rodrigues. “However, it
continues to leave little room to accommodate any significant future growth in
the student population.”

Mrs. Rodrigues said 2,120 students
attend government high schools, with 1,109 students in years 7 through 9 at the
four George Hicks academies, and 1,012 students in years 10 and up at John Gray.

Mrs. Rodrigues said total student
numbers for September 2010 – the start of the next school year – are expected
to reach 2,139.

Due to a change in the education
system structure, Cayman’s two new high schools – John Gray in George Town and
Clifton Hunter in Frank Sound – will hold students from Years 7 through 11,
while the George Hicks campus will accommodate students in the newly-created
Year 12 programme.

However, construction delays at
Cayman’s two new high schools mean students will now need to attend classes for
at least one more year on the existing George Hicks and John Gray campuses. The
two schools are on adjacent properties in central George Town.

The 339 students in the Year 12
programme will also need to be accommodated on the George Hicks Campus.

The Ministry stated that all
students and teachers assigned to the Clifton Hunter High School will be housed
at the George Hicks Campus, beginning in September 2010.  They will then
transition to the Clifton Hunter School as soon as it is opened.

 All students and teachers
assigned to the John Gray High School will be housed at the existing campus
until the new campus is ready for use.

The Caymanian Compass reported in
October 2009 that Education Minister Rolston Anglin was concerned an increasing
overall population and increasing numbers of students transferring from private
schools might strain the capacities of the two new schools.

“When Minister Anglin addressed
student capacity issues for the new schools in the (Legislative Assembly), the
capacity at the Clifton Hunter and John Gray campuses was originally projected
for 750 and 1,000, respectively, with 250 per academy,” said Mrs. Rodrigues.

“As Minister Anglin advised the
public, based on these projections, we would not have had sufficient spaces to
meet the demand at the schools in September 2010.”

The ministry has recently revised
its projections of the number of students each campus would be able to handle.

The Department of Education
Services now believes a maximum of 900 students at Clifton Hunter and 1,200
students at John Gray can be accommodated. That means each school academy will
go from a maximum 250 students to a 300 student capacity.

How education officials were able
to affect the sudden revision in academy capacities has not been explained.  

Based on an analysis by the
Department of Education Services, Mrs. Rodrigues said 1,100 students were
designated for the new John Gray Campus, while 700 were designated to attend
the Clifton Hunter Campus, for a total of 1,800 spaces.

That’s well under the new combined
capacity of 2,100. However, 1,800 students would have been above the initially
stated maximum capacity of the two new schools  

Education officials said once the
students move into their new schools, cramped conditions should ease – for a
brief time at any rate.

3rd school on hold

The Cayman Islands government initially
wanted to open three new high schools on Grand Cayman, one in West Bay, one in
George Town and one in Frank Sound.

The school campuses were based on
an academy model, with buildings housing smaller numbers of students
surrounding shared facilities.

In March 2008, government announced
that the new high schools’ opening date had been pushed back to September 2009.
In December 2008, the plans for the Beulah Smith High School in West Bay were
shelved due to budget constraints. The schools’ opening date was later pushed
back to September 2010.

On 13 November, 2009, work on the
schools stopped completely due to a dispute between government and the former
schools’ contractor.

The contractor, Tom Jones
International, later had its contract cancelled by government and the
construction firm was sued by a subcontractor, Caribbean Mechanical (High
Schools 2008) Ltd.

Eventually on 27 January the
Ministry of Education announced its plans to complete the John Gray and Clifton
Hunter campus projects, starting with the recommencement urgent works at both
sites on 26 January.  The Ministry of
Education did not give a new target date for the opening of the two new
schools.

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A security guard closes the gate to the John Gray High School construction site as a worker leaves on his bicycle in November when the project was shut down.
Alan Markoff