Next Tuesday (September 1), 275,571 Jerusalem pupils – general, religious and Arab – will go back to school: 62,409 of them will attend kindergarten; 17,943 will enter first grade; and 195,219 will return to the second through 12th grades. This new school year will see the inauguration of 198 new classrooms – a result of the significant growth in the numbers of city children in all sectors. Some 48 new kindergartens will start to function in a range of neighborhoods, and new schools for children with special needs and disabilities will open in Har Homa, Ramot, Kafr Aqab (an Arab neighborhood beyond the security barrier). A new facility for kindergarten and first grade will open in Shuafat and two classes for special-needs boys will open near the Karlin Yeshiva in Ramat Shlomo. The Education Ministry’s largest district, Jerusalem has increased its education budget from NIS 2.3 billion to NIS 3.3 billion. This enables the construction of new classrooms in all sectors and the renovation of 700 education venues across the capital at the cost of NIS 450 million – in addition to the general education budget.This impressive construction momentum still falls short of meeting the full need for educational institutions. The city has suffered for more than a decade and a half from a shortage of appropriate venues, particularly in the Arab and haredi sectors. LAST WEEK dozens of haredi parents and children from Gilo demonstrated at Safra Square and for about an hour even opened a “class” there, arguing that the municipality hasn’t yet solved their problems. They argued that even though the school year is around the corner, their children lack a proper place to study. “There is no solution and we cannot remain silent,” insisted one parent. For the moment, there are 70 children in grades three and four who will continue to study in temporary structures too small for their numbers, as they did last year. One of the parents said that haredi children living outside the large ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods are too often deprived of some basic rights, like the right to study in an appropriate venue. Many still attend classes, for example, in small rented apartments with no schoolyard. Close to 100,000 children from first to 12th grade study in the official (but not recognized) haredi stream – which means their status is semi-private but still depends on the city education system. Most of these pupils live and study in the haredi neighborhoods, but a significant part of the problem lies in non-haredi neighborhoods, where there are insufficient solutions. ONE NEW feature of the city’s education system this year is the inclusion of a holistic approach to students, which beyond regular learning will pay attention to children’s emotional, psychological and cultural needs and provide an adapted response. Another feature is the growing inclusion of modern technologies. The “Jerusalem Model for Holistic Learning” will integrate regular studies with non-official studies – involving several aspects of social and welfare needs and use of modern tools. For example, Gilo students will have expanded access to nature and through it learn about living and growing with the elements, connecting with the land and more. In 150 schools across the city, a new approach will be tested: the traditional structure of frontal instruction will be transitioned to a more innovative way of learning, incorporating extensive research on student needs and culture. A new center for developing educational innovation in the Gonenim neighborhoods will incorporate more technology and media, as well as gardening as a way of reaching out to students experiencing emotional difficulties. A social worker will assist the pedagogic teams in all neighborhood schools. Regarding the Health Ministry’s coronavirus restrictions, the municipality has prepared a series of alternative venues that will include the zoo, the Gazelle Valley and community centers, to ensure a safe and regular – as much as possible – environment for students in all grades. Through Manhi (the city education administration), Jerusalem is launching a support center for teachers, where they can access emotional support in dealing with stress and high demands throughout the school year.