Heated talk as Education, Finance ministries clash over reopening classes

Before coronavirus, the return to school was scheduled for this Friday, but a full return of students to their classrooms does not appear to be on the horizon.

An empty school is seen after Israel shut schools as part of precautionary measures against coronavirus, in Tel Aviv, Israel March 15, 2020 (photo credit: CORINNA KERN/REUTERS)
An empty school is seen after Israel shut schools as part of precautionary measures against coronavirus, in Tel Aviv, Israel March 15, 2020
(photo credit: CORINNA KERN/REUTERS)
The Education Ministry is at odds with the Finance Ministry over when to open schools and what summer vacation 2020 will like. Education Minister Rafi Peretz said studies should continue in July but that there should still be a vacation in August. The Finance Ministry wants parents, teachers and students to give up the full July and August summer break to help cure the economy. 
“This is the reasonable and logical option,” Peretz said Sunday about maintaining a break in August, noting that it was correct based on the number of school days missed so far and that he believed it could pass through the Teachers Union. 
So far only two and a half weeks of school have been cancelled due to the coronavirus outbreak.
Meetings were held Sunday on the subject between the different ministries and members of the Teachers Union to move closer to a decision. 
Before coronavirus, the return to school was scheduled for this Friday, but a full return of students to their classrooms does not appear to be on the horizon. At press time, reports indicated that the country would not be ready to return to school in any capacity on Sunday. The Health Ministry has said returning to school would be a health risk.
 
 One of the key concerns is whether it would be necessary to hold school throughout the summer to help the economy recover from these last weeks, and many ministries, organizations and people are involved in such a decision. 
The Education and Finance ministries have offered proposals. According to the Hebrew daily Israel Hayom, the Education Ministry is recommending elementary schools learn in shifts, whereby students would attend school three times per week for about four hours a week.
The Finance Ministry would like preschools to resume full time as early as Sunday and then to send first through third graders back to school the week after. 
Other ideas being considered are restarting preschools in shifts, too, and keeping at-risk teachers (older teachers or those with underlying medical conditions) at home. Still others offer that schools in “green” areas – those with a low number of cases – would reopen, while schools in “red” areas, such as in Bnei Brak, would stay closed. 
 
Dorit Hazan, chairwoman of the Association of Kindergarten Teachers, told Walla that pushing for preschools to open too quickly was “irresponsible to everyone. It seems like an attempt to please the public without checking how right such a move is. It shows a lack of responsibility toward preschool teachers.”
 In addition, compensation for teachers who would be asked to teach during summer break remains on the table. Previously the Teachers Union agreed would make up the missing days without additional pay.
Already, it has been agreed that a portion of students with special needs will start back to school next week. In almost all proposals, grades four through six would continue learning at home for the time being.
 Any program must be submitted and approved by the Health Ministry before implementation.


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