Cayman’s private and public schools will not reopen any time soon, according to Education Minister Juliana O’Connor-Connolly.
“Schools will be closed until further notice. As we continue to monitor the spread of the virus, it is not possible to provide a timeline,” O’Connor-Connolly said Wednesday as she joined the daily COVID-19 press briefing via Zoom video-link.
Her statement followed confirmation of six new coronavirus cases in Cayman, taking the local cases to 60.
On Thursday, that number increased to 61 as Chief Medical Officer Dr. John Lee announced a further positive case.
O’Connor-Connolly outlined her ministry’s plans for education in a question-and-answer presentation which addressed concerns parents have been raising since schools were closed last month.
“We hope that with continued social distancing and additional methods in place, we as a community may be able to stop the spread of the virus and enable the country as a whole to reopen for business/school,” she said.
Parents have questioned whether students will have to be held back for a year because of the ongoing school closures.
“This is dependent on the length of time schools are closed,” the education minister said, noting that her ministry and the Department of Education Services are still considering options for reopening schools.
“In addition to education provision, we recognise that students’ emotional, mental health and wellbeing will also be significantly impacted by this pandemic. Given the impact this will have on learning, the resumption of schools cannot be ‘business as usual’. Stress management, establishing clear routines and maintaining effective communication will be crucial for both students and teachers,” she added.
Asked what measures have been implemented to ensure student learning throughout school closures, the minister said it was not possible to monitor how children are learning in every single household, but said teachers and principals are in contact with parents and students.
She said the Ministry of Education, the Department of Education Services and the schools are working to ensure students will be able to make up any educational gaps when schools reopen.
Some parents have asked if the ministry would consider moving the summer vacation forward and beginning the new school year earlier than usual.
Responding to questions of what provisions are being made for students with no internet connection, the minister said paper-based learning packets had been provided for such students when the schools first closed.
Schools have contacted parents regarding packets, and while most have been collected or delivered, some parents have not responded to the schools, she said.