Cayman International School continues to grow

Cayman International School continues to grow

By Alan Markoff

14 October 2021

When Dart announced in 2018 that it was moving forward with a planned US$60 million expansion of Cayman International School, there were 630 students at CIS.

The expansion added a new early childhood school and high school to the existing facilities.

Enrolment projections anticipated growth with the opening of the early childhood school in August 2019 and the opening of the new high school in early 2020. By the 2023/24 academic year, enrolment at CIS was expected to top 900 students.

That projection, however, was reached and surpassed two years ahead of schedule, with 945 students enrolled for the 2021/22 school year.

director of school in front of sign
Cayman International School Director Jim Urquhart.

CIS Director Jim Urquhart says the school expected growth for the current school year is based on the increase of inquiries and applications it received between November 2020 and March 2021, coupled with its typically high retention rate.

However, Urquhart says the school was surprised by the number of applications it received between April 2021 and July 2021 for the school year that began in late August. The result was a significant 17% increase in enrolment between 2020 and 2021.

"Our increased growth may be attributed to a combination of factors," says Urquhart, noting that the source of enrolment increase comes from students moving to CIS from other schools in the Cayman Islands, from some students who were previously enrolled in boarding schools in other countries returning to the Islands and from new expatriate families moving to the country.

The COVID-19 pandemic has played a role in the enrolment increase at CIS, as has the reputation of the school.

"Some people who expected to leave the Cayman Islands for professional or family needs decided to stay in the Cayman Islands because of the pandemic and saw that their children are happy, learning and engaged at CIS," he says. "Feedback from parents also indicates that their experience and sense is that CIS is considered a strong and safe school for people with diverse perspectives, which has further piqued interest within the Cayman Islands and from overseas."

The faster-than-expected growth has created a waiting list at all areas of CIS. There are, however, spaces currently available in some grades.

chart showing growth of CIS student population

"Depending on the levels of learning needs of a student, we have limited space available in grade 3, grade 6 and grade 12," he says.

In order to accommodate the increase in students, Urquhart says class sizes grew to capacity, moving from 16 to 18 students in the elementary school, middle school and high school.

Once CIS saw the strong demand this past summer, it quickly moved to hire more staff.

"We added three additional educational staff — two part-time and one full-time — during the summer to address the growth," says Urquhart. "We also have addressed operational needs, increased cleaning staff and hired an additional office staff member to best support our students, staff, parents and the broader CIS community."

Urquhart says another reason for the rapid growth is simply the foundation of a modern, state-of-the-art facility coupled with a global education system.

"Certainly the notion of 'if you build it, they will come' cannot be underestimated," Urquhart says. "Indeed, the vision of the Kenneth B. Dart Foundation and the governance of International School Services, with respect to the building and enhancements of facilities, is also a factor. The CIS facilities now approach those of other international schools around the world, and certainly match or exceed those of international schools in our region."

This article was originally featured in the October 2021 print edition of Camana Bay Times with the headline "CIS continues to grow."

author headshot

About the author

Alan Markoff has worked with Dart as the editor for Camana Bay Times for four years and has been writing professionally since 1997. Born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio, Alan graduated from the State University of New York at Albany with a degree in English, and first moved to the Cayman Islands in 1982. He has 17 years of experience in the real estate industry and previously worked as a journalist for the Cayman Compass before joining Dart to relaunch the Camana Bay Times monthly newspaper. Alan is passionate about food and wine and he loves to write about both those subjects. He is also the leader of Grand Cayman’s Slow Food Chapter. One of Alan’s favourite ways to relax is to catch a film at Camana Bay Cinema. It was at one of these movies that he met his wife, Lynn!

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