Describing the original design of the Cayman’s new high schools as a “futuristic experiment”, Minister of Education Rolston Anglin outlined changes undertaken to bring the schools in line with more traditional planning.
Among the revamp from the original design for the John Gray and Clifton Hunter high schools, Mr. Anglin said an open-plan classrooms design has been scrapped and that security measures have been increased.
The education minister said the original design did not adequately met the needs of the students or the teachers at the schools and “defied logic and judgment”.
He said he had taken the design changes to educators, parents and students, whom he said were relieved “they were not made to conform to a futuristic experiment where the form of these buildings wholly dictated its function”.
Outlining the modifications at a meeting of the Legislative Assembly last week, Mr. Anglin described how in the original design, science and art were to be taught at the same time in a large open area.
“I am told that our educators were informed that this was a concept Da Vinci area where the separate subject lines were merged in an attempt to recreate ‘renaissance learning’. To our collective knowledge, nowhere else in the world teaches science and art in the same room at high school level, for the obvious reasons of noise infiltration and the products of science experiments interfering with neighbouring classes,” Mr. Anglin said.
He added: “Both science and art have changed significantly, I suggest, since the times of Leonardo Da Vinci.”
Science laboratories have now been dedicated to teaching science with art classes rehoused in separate facilities within a Design and Technology building, he said.
He added that the modified design had tried to change the “open learning” environment of the original plan, which he described as “schools without classrooms” where different teachers and classes of students were in full view and hearing of one another in large open spaces.
That design included erecting walls or partitions, with a gap of 4 feet, at the top of each, as required by the fire codes. “The changes we have brought in will not enable my ministry to deliver completely acoustically separate learning spaces withing the academies, but we have added as close to them as we can,” the minister said.
Mr. Anglin described the security of the school campuses as falling “below the present levels expected at our high schools” in the original plans which included a perimeter with a three-and-a-half-foot high picket fence around three sides at the rear and no enclosure at the front. He said the CCTV system did not cover the perimeter areas, but was mainly focused within campus buildings.
That has been changed to include a six-foot-high chain link fence with CCTV focused at the front of the building where the fence may not extend, Mr. Anglin told lawmakers.
Home economics would also be added to the curriculum at the schools, he said. “No real provision for the teaching of home economics, as a life skills and examination subject, despite a design for commercial kitchens at each site that cost around $750,000 each,” he said.
Mr. Anglin described the original plan for cookery classes as students learning alongside professional caterers in the commercial kitchens, while providing meals for fellow pupils.
“Apart from the safety aspects, it is difficult to envisage how the teaching of skills would have been accommodated within this scenario,” he said.
The redesigned schools will also include “behaviour intervention areas” where the government’s national behaviour and discipline strategy would be implemented.
Mr. Anglin said that under this strategy, suspensions of students and incidents of serious indiscipline had been reduced by more than 60 per cent, meaning that by the end of October, eight students had been suspended in 2010 from Years 10 through 12, compared to 35 in 2009 and 51 in 2008.
“This is not schools going soft on discipline, but a focus on de-escalation, keeping the students in school rather than excluding them from all learning environments.”
In response to a question from the former minister of education, Alden McLauglin, Mr. Anglin said the Clifton Hunter school was expected to be completed between September and December this year and John Grey between September 2012 and September 2013.
He said would later give an update relating to the phased completion of the schools.