Clifton Hunter experiences air glitches

The Cayman Islands Ministry of Education is assuring parents, students, faculty and staff at Clifton Hunter High School that air conditioning problems have been resolved. 

“The Ministry of Education and the Department of Education Services wish to advise parents and staff of the Clifton Hunter High School that the situation with the school’s air conditioning has now been resolved. All buildings are now being cooled and all services have returned to normal. We thank everyone, especially the staff and students, for your patience during the last week,” read a statement issued last week. 

Before the Friday statement, the ministry explained the issues plaguing the air conditioning system at the newly-constructed secondary school in Frank Sound in Grand Cayman. 

Deputy Chief Officer in the Ministry of Education Christen Suckoo noted the extent of the problem, as well as the prognosis. 

“… In order to effect necessary repairs, we have had to turn off air conditioning to four of the buildings on the site: Lady Slater Academy and the Technology, Performing Arts and Administration Buildings.” 

The problems with the air conditioning at the $100 million facility follow some concerns on the part of parents and students about the design of the classrooms and sound bleeding into adjoining classrooms. 

Mr. Suckoo addressed the issue and also said Education Minister Rolston Anglin had spoken about the open classroom design in the Legislative Assembly in January 2011.  

“The ministry identified that sound travel between classrooms would be an issue and took advice from an acoustician on the matter. It was decided to address the issue by installing permanent acoustic partitions in the classrooms to reduce the sound levels. It was not possible to install full walls because the fire code required a 4-foot gap for emergency egress at the end of each partition and gaps were also needed at the top of each partition in order to ensure proper air circulation,” Mr. Suckoo said.  

He added that as a result, the minister reported then that the sound reduction would not completely address the issue and quoted the acoustician’s statement that “activities on one side of the fixed barriers will be audibly noticeable but not distracting most of the time, but with the potential for distraction in some [areas]”. 

“The ministry was not able to make further changes as the majority of the buildings were substantially complete when the present administration took office, therefore the costs of redesigning and re-building would have been too significant.” 

On several occasions, the Ministry of Education has promised the media a tour of the facility. However, this has still not taken place.