The political aphorism, “show me your budget and I will show you what you value,” can be applied to any endeavor – public, private or personal.
Seen through that lens, Cayman International School’s $45-million expansion project is a strong testament to school leaders’ commitment to our children and our future. (For scale, consider that the comprehensive airport upgrade currently under way carries an estimated $55 million price tag; the government has committed $8.8 million to the John Gray High School gym.)
The CIS project, which has been submitted to planning authorities, will nearly double the size of the school’s current campus and increase its enrollment capacity from around 630 to 1,100 students. That is welcome news to families struggling to find a place for their children in Cayman’s competitive private school system, where wait-lists for open seats have been known to stretch for years.
CIS is no exception (indeed, it is one of the most sought-after programs on island). School officials told the Compass there are currently waiting lists for several grades*. The expansion should allow the school to accommodate more of them by offering at least one additional class for each group (the school enrolls children from age 2 to 18).
Moreover, the new buildings will be deliberately designed and thoughtfully tailored to facilitate learning at every stage of development. Early childhood spaces will include specialized spaces, such as a perceptual motor room, library and teaching kitchen, offering a stimulating environment for nursery students through Pre-K 4. Outdoor spaces will include “learning gardens” and grounds conducive to the creative play that is so important for young learners.
At the high school level, open work spaces, laboratories and physical education and arts facilities will foster collaboration and project-based learning, while allowing the school to diversify its curriculum.
As Ian Downing, Dart’s chief financial officer and a director of the KBD Foundation, said in a statement about the expansion: “The new facilities will not only increase capacity but also the range of educational offerings available. International School[s] Services shares our vision to provide world-class education at Cayman International School for students across the Cayman Islands, today and for generations to come.”
Another feat: The school anticipates completing construction of the Early Childhood campus by August 2019, with the high school building being completed the following year – a dizzying pace when compared with other projects of its scope (again, for comparison’s sake, consider the now 14-year timeline for construction of John Gray).
The planned expansion of CIS is only the most recent success story in the school’s 12-year history, and it is certainly not the last, thanks to the vibrant partnership between committed educators, global experts at the U.S.-based nonprofit educational organization International Schools Services, and Dart Realty.
And it provides a valuable case study in an education landscape that is often cluttered and confused by top-heavy administrative structures, cumbersome committees and blame-shifting for poor performance.
With commitment, planning and profitable partnerships, it is possible to create and maintain excellent schools in the Cayman Islands, and to do it quickly and profitably.
Our students deserve nothing less.
*This text is updated from the original and print versions of this editorial.