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Published 27th January 2010, 3:28pm

The Ministry of Education has advised that the Government has approved a comprehensive strategy to complete the John Gray and Clifton Hunter campus projects. The implementation of this strategy began with the recommencement of "urgent" works at both sites on Tuesday, 26 January. Education Minister, the Hon Rolston Anglin underscored the importance of this development. "I am sure this is news that the country has been waiting for. The Ministry’s project team has been working diligently to identify and advise on the various options available to government, to enable the schools to be completed in the most cost effective and timely fashion." "This has involved detailed, painstaking work, to gather the necessary data, to undertake the necessary research and negotiations. There is still work to be done, but we have a sensible plan, and I am pleased that we are now in a position to move forward." Minister Anglin advised that negotiations with the existing sub-contractors in the main sub-trades are on-going, but the Education Ministry is encouraged by the progress that is being made. "This signals that things are moving in the right direction, with the first aspect of our strategy, which is to proceed with critical works. We are back underway, albeit in a limited fashion at the present time, but we are well set to increase the activity on both sites in relatively short order," Minister Anglin stated. The second aspect of the strategy envisages a number of additions to the project team designed to steer both projects through to successful completion. The project management for the schools will be supplemented with further experienced personnel under the overall direction of Government’s consultant, Mr. David Benoit. The Consultant has also been actively engaged in the negotiations with the main sub-trades. These important negotiations are a critical third component of the government’s strategy. Ministry Chief Officer Mary Rodrigues, explained: "We have been advised that it would be in Government’s best interests to continue with the existing sub-contractors if this is possible, particularly to ensure that the warranties for the work performed are effective." "To this end, the project team has been negotiating with the existing sub-contractors beginning with the major sub-trades. These include roofing and window installation, exterior wall systems and mechanical, electrical and plumbing (MEP). However, at the same time, it is critical that the government’s interests are protected. Therefore, where necessary, the government will insist that these protections are built into the final agreements." The Hon. Rolston Anglin also added that the new strategy will bring new opportunities for Caymanian workers: "Government is placing the hiring of suitably qualified Caymanians as a condition in any and all contracts, and it will want to see staffing arrangements as a part of any arrangement moving forward." "Under the previous administration, no such protections were provided. At a time when so many Caymanians in the construction industry are seeking work, the Government wants to ensure that the schools projects give them an opportunity to earn a living." The fourth aspect of the government’s strategy will also provide new employment opportunities for local firms. This involves the appointment of a construction management team responsible, amongst other things, for coordinating the activities of the various sub-trades at the sites. The ministry is currently finalizing arrangements to advertise the construction management tender. Minister Anglin advised that the Government had opted to engage a construction management team to complete the project, rather than appoint a new General Contractor. "After a detailed review of the pros and cons of the options available, the project team advised that the construction management route was the most appropriate and cost effective." Minister Anglin was keen to highlight that, while the construction works are important, the main objective of the Ministry’s work is the improvement of the education system. "Alongside the development of the strategy for completing both new schools, the Ministry and the Department of Education Services have been hard at work endeavouring to better organize our education system, to raise standards and to improve outcomes." "That work is being led by the New Schools Transitions Taskforce. A range of recent press releases focused on sharing information on key developments such as the transition to all-through secondary schools; on catchment areas; and on graduation criteria. It is important that the impact of this essential work is not lost in the excitement surrounding the recommencement of construction."