A $40 million plan to complete the new John Gray High School campus was approved by the Central Planning Authority Wednesday.

The decision means the project, which has been in progress for more than a decade, can finally move towards conclusion. Around $54 million had been spent when issues with the original contractor and a government funding crisis brought a halt to construction in 2012.

It has since been revived, with the completion of the school gym in 2017.

Now the Ministry of Education is aiming to finish the job.

The project has undergone a radical redesign, moving away from the original plan for separate academies and open-plan classrooms.

That design proved unpopular with teaching staff at the new Clifton Hunter High School.

This time, extensive input from teachers, parents and even students has been factored in.

Principal Jon Clark told the Cayman Compass Thursday he was delighted the project was moving forward. He said he and his team had been involved every step of the way.

“The goal is to have a world-class school. That is about more than just the buildings,” he said. “We are trying to get our exams up to international standards and we are making inroads there.

“We are improving teaching and learning, we are sorting out world-class trips for the students, a world-class experience. That will go to the next level now with the new building.”

Image shows the proposed design for one of the workrooms within the new John Gray High School.

He said the teaching staff had been clear that they wanted traditional walled classrooms in preference to the more open design that proved unpopular at Clifton Hunter.

Other changes to the design mean there will no longer be three mini schools for each academy, as originally envisaged. Instead, classrooms will be grouped together by subject matter, with separate sections for humanities, STEM and other subject areas. Clark said this approach would allow the school to remain as one community and enable teachers in each subject matter to share resources and work together more collaboratively.

Though there will be more than one structure, the campus will be centred around one main two-storey ‘radial building’ that will be the heart of the school, the plans indicate.

The redeveloped school will feature a central atrium, with a library, that will be the main entry point to the new building.

“We have got the library right at the heart of the school,” Clark said.

“Not only does it show that literacy and learning is at the centre of everything we want to do, it is also very practical and accessible for all the different departments.”

He said the rest of the design was extremely functional and built with the teachers’ and students’ needs in mind. He said everything had been considered, including maximising ‘lines of sight’ to allow teachers and administrators to better supervise the students outside of class time. A special needs hub and a performing arts studio are also part of the plans.

In its submission to the Central Planning Authority, the ministry explained the delays in the project that caused it to be paused in 2012.

An artist’s rendering of an interior of one of the new John Gray High School classrooms.

It states, “Work ceased on site in 2012 leaving the project works incomplete. This was due to issues with the original contractor, delays, escalating costs and falling revenues. There were also concerns that the schools-within-schools model and the open-plan model implemented at Clifton Hunter, was proving challenging.”

The freeze on construction and the design changes have brought additional costs. Two of the partially built structures will have to be demolished “due to their poor state”, the application indicates. The new school will be able to accommodate 1,200 students.

The ministry stated in its application that it will provide a significant improvement on existing facilities.

“The new design will provide hugely improved teaching conditions and enable a curriculum model that provides more opportunities for improving performance and increasing engagement, including enhanced ICT, outdoor sports facilities, practical vocational space and other world-class facilities for teaching traditional and new skills,” the ministry application noted.

The project will be delivered in phases, with the new school expected to be completed by August 2021 and the associated playing fields by August 2022.

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