Health, safety problems found at Brac day care center

Inspectors have found what they deemed “important weaknesses” in a review of the Cayman Brac Day Care Centre.

The newly published report is the latest in an ongoing series of inspections of schools and education centers being conducted by the Office of Education Standards.

The report faults the day care center for not having ample space for the students enrolled there, inadequate curriculum and health and hygiene problems. The center is required to come up with a plan of action to address the deficiencies within 40 working days.

Among the things inspectors cited in their report was an insufficient number of toilets for the 3- and 4-year-old children, lack of a sick-bay area for children who become ill, and the storage of play equipment in adult restrooms. First aid kits were also not up to standard, the report said.

Peter Carpenter, director of the standards office, said the inspection was a result of a special request made a month ago by the Ministry of Education.

“They said, we’re worried about x, y and z,” Mr. Carpenter said.

The center, which opened in 1989, originally served employees of the District Administration office. In 1993, it opened to the general public and a dedicated facility was built to house the center. While it falls under the jurisdiction of the education ministry, it is not registered with the Education Council and does not meet some of the standards other early childhood centers are required to. For example, the report faulted the center for not having a certified teacher on staff.

Ernie Scott, district commissioner for the Brac, said officials were already in the process of addressing that issue. He said they plan hire a certified teacher by the start of the next school year.

“We’re right now sort of in the middle of the recruiting process,” Mr. Scott said. “This is a matter we’ve been working on for more than a year.” Having a teacher in place might help address some of the deficiencies noted in the area of curriculum.

“Inspectors noted a limited range of age-appropriate books in the day care centre to support the children’s emerging literacy skills,” the report said. “Over the two days of inspection, no opportunities were provided for the children to interact with books.”

While children had the opportunity to play with age-appropriate toys, “there were limited structured activities to support the development of their fine and gross motor skills,” the report said. “In all stages from toddlers to four-year-old children, the spacious outdoor area was not used effectively to promote children’s physical and social skills.”

Inspectors also found maintenance problems, noting that “there were a number of minor repairs both inside and outside of the building which required attention and which had previously been reported to the relevant authorities.”

They also said “numerous areas … were cluttered and this was reportedly due to the shortage of storage space for resources.”

In the area of safety, the report said the center had an annual fire drill, but more and better organized periodic drills were necessary to teach children the evacuation routes.

Mr. Carpenter said, in general, the center had outgrown itself.

Some of its problems, he said, “are, ironically, a consequence of the success of the center. Somebody should have said, ‘We’re not allowed to take any more [children].’”

Mr. Scott said there is available space for the center to expand, but no decision has been made to do so. Class sizes can vary greatly from year to year, he said, making it difficult to anticipate the need for space.

While the report found many deficiencies, he said, he did not see great cause for concern.

“This is not a terrible report,” he said. “We’re hoping we’re going to see positive things coming out of it. We’re going to treat this as something to advance and improve the day care center.”

The full report can be found online at Click on the Publications link under the heading Freedom of Information. Then click on the Office of Education Standards link.

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