In her start of the school year address, Education Minister Juliana O’Connor-Connolly talked about the ongoing project of building the new John Gray High School.

“I went out on a limb last year,” Ms. O’Connor-Connolly said of her promise to increase teacher salaries. “I’m going to go out on a bigger limb this year.”

She said she believed things are lining up to proceed in earnest on the long-stalled project.

“I want it for a Christmas present in December 2020,” she said.

That is well ahead of the August 2021 completion discussed when the ministry recently held a market engagement day to update local contractors who wish to bid on the completion of the new campus and two other construction projects that will create a new education complex. Presentations were made on each of the projects:

Complete the new John Gray campus, by adding to the partially constructed structures to make them into a contiguous high school building complex.

Refurbish the existing George Hicks site (the current John Gray High School) for the following users: Cayman Islands Further Education Centre, Department of Education Student Services, Corner Stones, Parenting and Pregnant Teens and UCCI. This would be substantially complete by February 2022.

Demolition of the current CIFEC campus, except for the main hall, for construction of a new John Gray High School sports field. This would be substantially complete by September 2022.

In a statement, Ms. O’Connor-Connolly said the newly constructed high school would set an example.

“In the same way that we have five-star tourist facilities, our children deserve a world-class facility that will demonstrate education as a major priority of the country,” she said, calling the project an important component of nation building.

The new design incorporates features from high-performing institutions, the minister said.

“This modern design also takes the best from the schools here in Cayman,” she said, “providing a learning environment that is right for our people and our culture.”

Jonathan Matthews, senior project manager of the Public Works Department’s major projects office, said the new plan is “based on research connecting school design with improved educational outcomes and on extensive input from all stakeholders, including teachers, students and parents, to ensure that their feedback is incorporated into the design. It was also determined from the start that the revised school design should be functional and practical, paying less attention to empty architectural elegance.”

Mr. Matthews said the design also takes into account feedback from those who will use the facility.

The PWD’s major project office along with a KPMG team presented the plans to the contractors, and are creating the outline business case that will be presented to Cabinet for approval next month. Procurement is expected to commence in October.