Schools closure causes confusion

Parents with children in Grand
Cayman’s private schools were subjected to mixed messages on Wednesday morning,
resulting in early-morning confusion for many.

According to St. Ignatius Head of
School Tom McGrath, the Private Schools Association reached a consensus that to
avoid confusion; private schools would close if government schools were closing
for weather reasons.

Jean Caskey Cayman International School
head, said her school informed parents on Tuesday they would follow suit if government
schools were closing.

“Looking at the weather this
morning, it seems that was a good decision,” she said.

“We will do it on a case by case
basis, but in when it comes to weather conditions, with students coming from
across the Island we want to make sure they are safe getting to and from
school.”

On Tuesday, the decision was made
to close government schools early.

“Yesterday, Grand Cayman was under
a Tropical Storm warning and we were going to leave the government schools open
until the usual time. But we were advised around lunchtime that there was a
band of stormy weather due to hit Grand Cayman at around 4pm, which prompted
our decision to close the schools at 1pm,” said Vaughn Carter of the Ministry
of Education.

Several private schools, including
Cayman Prep, Triple C and Grace Christian Academy followed suit – along with
the University College of the Cayman Islands. Mr. McGrath said St. Ignatius
decided not to close early for timing reasons.

The George Town Library also closed
early Tuesday. 

The sudden closure led a glut of
traffic on rain-choked roads, particularly in central George Town, as residents
hurried to get their kids out of schools.

Government workers were allowed to
leave early to get their children or check on their homes if they lived in
low-lying areas.

In Windsor Park, parents arrived at
the Richard Arch Children’s Centre to pick up their little ones.

“I get a call at five-to-one saying
you need to come pick up your son by one o’clock,” said Kevon Bazil “I didn’t
even know there was a tropical storm. I just thought it was another rainy day
in Cayman.”  

Tisha Davidson had to pick up her
two kids, one at primary school and one in day care.

“I’m actually on vacation, if I was
at work it would have been a different story,” she said. 

 

Morning confusion

Confusion arose Wednesday morning
when parents were presented with conflicting information about whether private
schools were closing their doors.

“We followed the bulletins, which
were being updated throughout the night, we updated our website eight times,”
said Mr. McGrath.

“Our website administrator left at
6:45 and as far as we knew at 7am government schools were going to open.”

Mr. McGrath says the complication
was the lateness of the decision. However, the fact that private schools were
not informed directly of the decision may have also played a role.

“We were told the tropical storm
warning was going to lift, thus the schools were set to be open on Wednesday,”
explained Mr. Carter.

“We were monitoring the situation
all through the night, but at 6:30 that the warning was still in effect and due
to this unexpected continuation of the warning, at 6:30 we decided to close the
schools.”

He noted that on Tuesday schools
were told that the decision to open might change, and as soon as the decision
was made it was conveyed to the media, bus drivers, and schools.

“We understood that right at the
time the students would be going to school we were to be experiencing some
quite bad weather,” said Mr. Carter.

“If there is a tropical storm
warning we want to take the children’s safety into consideration.”

At the same time, Deputy Chief
Officer Christen Suckoo said government school teachers were requested to
report to work on Wednesday just in case any students showed up, in the
understanding they would be released by their principals as appropriate.

Mr. McGrath hopes communication
regarding government school closures will be clarified for the private schools.

“We are supposed to monitor
websites like Cayman Prepared, but the information there was pre-empted by the
radio announcements, maybe there was some confusion as those forms of communication
were not up to date but we were relying on the radio,” he said.

“We probably would have been fine
if we opened, we closed the schools because of a government directive not because
we are not able to work, but made the decision to close because it would be
more confusing for everyone. We were using all sorts of methods to find out
what was going on and convey it to parents,” continued Mr. McGrath.

“Though my recommendation on school
closures would be that they be made at 6am.”

 

Brent Fuller contributed to this
story

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