The new John Gray High School gymnasium has been handed over to the school after a decade of construction and in time for year 10 and 11 exams.

The Ministry of Education confirmed the budget for the 34,442-square foot facility at $8.8 million, but has not yet revealed the final project cost. It estimated the end price tag for the multipurpose sports hall and hurricane shelter will come in at 1 to 3 percent below budget.

The category 5 shelter can hold 1,149 people in the case of an emergency.

Education Minister Tara Rivers praised the ministry for completing the project on schedule and within budget.

“This gym will be a true asset to John Gray High School and to the Cayman Islands. I’m sure our students will use it with pride and that it will provide the necessary educational, sporting and hurricane shelter facilities that will last for generations to come,” Minister Rivers said in a press statement. Government initially refused to release the gymnasium budget until after the facility’s completion, citing concern that such transparency might increase final costs.

Chief Officer for Education Christen Suckoo said the overall project costs included consultant fees, exam furniture, solar panels, LED lighting, a new parking lot and upgrades for the mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems.

Having access to the gym for exams alleviated classroom capacity issues, said school principal Jon Clark. The facility held 260 students for math testing this month. In the future, the hall will host school assemblies, graduation ceremonies and staff training.

“We have always struggled to accommodate students for exams, often having to use many additional classrooms; this has a knock-on effect to the learning of other year groups.

The behavior of the students in their new surroundings has been excellent and I hope this will also have helped their performance,” Mr. Clark said.

Department of Sports director Collin Anglin said the facility will provide a boost to interscholastic sports, as well as national sports programs like netball, basketball, badminton and volleyball. The building is scheduled to host a National Collegiate Athletic Association basketball tournament in November.

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