Director says Cayman International School expansion on track

This image shows the layout of the CIS expansion. The high school is in the upper center. The preschool is on the right. - Images: Architect's renderings

Officials at Cayman International School expect to have a new preschool ready in August 2019, followed by a new high school building in 2020.

On Thursday evening, school director Jeremy Moore gave a group of about 30 people a glimpse of what to expect when the new buildings, now under construction, are completed. Much of the discussion outlined the thinking that went into designing the $42 million expansion project.

“School design matters to learning,” Mr. Moore told the group. While it is hard to quantify its impact, he said, “You don’t hear people say, ‘That’s not important.’”

He walked the group through the consulting process that took place with the global architect firm Perkins+Will and showed examples of new concepts in learning environments.

“Education in general has experienced a fundamental shift,” Mr. Moore said, referring to the age of digital information. “There’s been a whole shift in what schools do and how they operate. How do we look at facilities and change them to match that?”

Part of the answer, he said, is in flexible learning spaces. The new classrooms in both the preschool and high school will have an open-plan design, much like that of Clifton Hunter High School. But they will also have movable walls to allow individual classrooms to be closed off, depending upon the situation.

“We’re building flexibility into the building itself,” Mr. Moore said.

And because students are learning not only academically but socially, the environment will account for that, he said.

“A lot of learning takes place in organic spaces, cafeterias and hallways,” he said. “There’s tons of nooks in the design of our new high school,” places where students can sequester themselves or sit in small groups.

Minerva Drive, which currently runs along the front of the school, will become an open quadrangle, with lawns and walkways. The preschool and high school will sit between that space and Esterley Tibbetts Highway.

The library in the new CIS preschool will incorporate lots of open space.

Katia Dahan, who has three children at the school, seemed jealous of the facilities they will be able to use.

“I want to go back to school,” she said, eliciting laughter from the crowd. She continued on in a serious vein, asking if the new classrooms might lend themselves to adult learning in the evening.

“We’re definitely open to how to really use this facility [in a way] that helps not just our kids at our school,” Mr. Moore said. “Us adding more seats becomes a benefit to the island as a whole.”

Other parents were concerned about how much the cost of tuition might rise in order to pay for the construction.

“We’re not going to bump up tuitions a huge amount,” Mr. Moore said, while acknowledging there would be incremental increases. “We’re going to pay more rent,” he said, referring to Dart, which owns the land, “but we’re going to have more kids.”

Currently, the school has 655 students. Its capacity will be 1,100 when the buildings are completed. A chart that was part of Mr. Moore’s presentation showed an anticipated enrollment of 1,077 by 2025.