Teachers Union head warns of strike in preschools, special ed

Union calls for "immediate dialogue."

Israelis return to school amid coronavirus concerns, September 1, 2020 (photo credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI/ MAARIV)
Israelis return to school amid coronavirus concerns, September 1, 2020
The Education Ministry reported on Sunday that 89.5% of kindergartens and preschools across the country opened and 10.5% remained closed. Central Israel saw the highest rates of opening at 97%, while the haredi (ultra-Orthodox) sector came in second with 96.5% and the South of the country at 95%. In Tel Aviv, 83% of preschools opened and 17% remained closed. In the capital, 75% of the preschools opened and after one quarter remained closed.
The Teacher’s Union informed the Education and Health ministries on Sunday that it intends to strike unless the respective ministries begin a discussion with the union about ensuring the safety of educators during the reopening of preschools and special education schools.
The current plans are that 1.1 million children are supposed to go back to school in classes of up to 35 children without “capsules” (small groups to reduce the risk of COVID-19 infection) and with some teachers being able to move between and teach in several classes and even in different preschools six days a week.
Preschools in “red cities” are also reopening. The Education Ministry suggested that those who work in kindergartens get checked for COVID-19, but it was not a binding decision.
Leader of the Teachers Union Yaffa Ben-David called on the Education Ministry to enter “immediate dialogue” with the union to ensure the safety of educators, claiming that the current policy places them at a health risk.
In an official letter to the Education Ministry, the union reported that roughly 120,000 members will strike and voiced its concern about the ongoing “failures” in how the ministry is managing education in the country.
The letter claimed that the union was ignored by the ministry when it sent requests in writing and that Ben David was only invited to meet Education Minister Yoav Galant on Sunday, the same day the preschools reopened.
Speaking in an interview on Channel 12 at 6 p.m., Ben David said, “The health ministry – they make decisions at the last minute – and they just tell us to open.”
The Education Ministry made the decision and included neither the Teachers Union nor professionals in preschool education within the ministry in the discussions leading to it, The Marker reported.
Israel previously reopened schools after the first lockdown for the novel coronavirus resulting in a surge in infection rates, deaths and ever-expanding chains of infection. Israel has the most crowded preschools among OECD countries.
Head of the Kindergarten Teachers Union Dorit Hazan called the reopening of preschools “odd and [based on] hallucinations” and added that it was done “without preparations or offering decent conditions to preschool teachers and educators.” She added that this will “cost all of us dearly.”
MK Karin Elharar (Yesh Atid) said that "the government learned nothing from the first lockdown during which 2,000 kindergartens were closed."
Elharar said that no time was given to parents, teachers and children to get ready for the reopening and that "we must learn to live with the novel coronavirus."
She held a Sunday panel with representatives of local councils, universities, and privately operated kindergartens to address these issues.
“The preschools opened in a completely irresponsible manner,” preschool teacher Shany Khalfon told KAN on Sunday, “which became a signature for how things are managed here. They announced it on Friday and on Sunday we reopened.”
Khalfon made it clear that, since she is not a member of any official union, she created her own capsules and did not work on Friday. “But this is stressful,” she said. “I went to comfort those who lost family members to COVID-19 twice in the past week.”
She added that her teaching staff shows up to work “because they need the money,” so “they must put the financial [aspect of work] before [considerations for] their health.”
“If they really wanted us to get checked for COVID-19, they would have postponed the reopening until Wednesday,” she claimed.
Hannah Brown contributed to this report.