Cabinet votes for schools to resume Sunday - not everyone will go

"Netanyahu is playing yo-yo with the education system."

A GROUP of junior high school students are demanding the government fulfill its educational duty to them.  (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
A GROUP of junior high school students are demanding the government fulfill its educational duty to them.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Israeli children in grades 1-3 and 11-12 can return to school on Sunday after the Cabinet approved what is considered a controversial decision to allow public school classes to resume.
Schools were shuttered two months ago as the coronavirus spread throughout the country. But recent data from the Health Ministry has indicated that the virus is in decline. As of Friday evening the number of active cases in the country lowered to 6,720 in comparison to the 7,023 from the day before. Among the active cases, 103 are in serious condition, and 83 are intubated. At last count, 225 people had died.

The move went against the National Security Council that said such a decision should be delayed and the Gertner Institute, which researched how quickly the virus spreads among children, and also recommended that the country wait a little longer and then open the education system in stages.
By the end of March, more than 160 countries worldwide had closed schools and nearly 90% of the world’s student population was out of class. Only a handful have started to return. Health experts have expressed skepticism that Israel needs to be a pioneer on this front. On Thursday night, former Health Ministry director-general Gabi Barbash told N12 that "If it were my kid, I would not send him to school."
As such, not all municipal authorities will open their city's schools on Sunday and the Education Ministry put out a statement saying that the opening of schools would be staggered.
Members of Forum 15, the Israeli Forum of Self-Government Cities, expressed concern that they would unable to implement the decision safely in such a short time frame, calling the decision "irresponsible and even dangerous, despite its good intentions."
The forum and nearly all its members - Ashdod, Beersheba, Haifa, Herzliya, Netanya, Ramat Gan, Rishon Lezion and Tel Aviv - said they would not open schools on Sunday.
A statement explained that they were not given enough time or practical guidelines for reopening the education system and they believed that they would unable to implement the move in a safe manner.
"Our schools and preschools are clean and the teams are ready," Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai said, "but we will not go by rules set by people who do not act responsibly." 
He promised parents that the schools would reopen, "but only after we take steps to ensure the children's safety." 
Schools in Arab communities, however, will not return to school next week, according to Kan News, which cited Arab authorities.
"We'll retouch on the subject after Ramadan, in about three weeks," said Joint List faction chairman Ahmad Tibi.
Bnei Brak and Kiryat Malachi also said they would not open on Sunday. However, Givatayim and Holon, both members of the forum said the would open schools, although in Holon only 11th and 12th grades would resume and not 1-3.
Back to the schools: Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) children in grades 7 through 12 will return to school, as well as all children enrolled in special education programs. What the framework will look like for youth-at-risk is sill under discussion.

Private daycare centers can open, as well, with up to five children.
Over the course of the next week, preparations will be made with the intention of opening preschools and kindergartens by May 10. The Prime Minister's Office said that students in grades 4-10 would return by June 1.
At this stage, attending school will not be mandatory, except for students learning for their matriculation exams. The Education Ministry said it will work with the schools to obtain the tools necessary to ensure the health and safety of students and teachers.
Minister of Education Rafi Peretz confirmed that he supported the decision by the Ministerial Committee and that the education system is ready to open on Sunday. He said he expects "hectic discussions" with the Health Ministry in the coming weeks as they determine how best to open the rest of the system.
MK Nitzan Horowitz (Meretz), however, called the decision disorganized.
Prime Minister Benjamin "Netanyahu is playing yo-yo with the education system," he said. "Instead of making organized decisions after serious administrative work, the most fateful decisions concerning the children, parents and teachers are made through improvisation and at the last minute."
On Thursday, preschool and elementary school teachers protested in concern that the policies recommended by the Education Ministry for opening schools will leave them at risk of contracting the virus. Many parents took to social media saying they would not send their kids to school.
It is still unclear what risk the move poses to parents and teachers who are older or who have underlying medical conditions, or who have children with medical conditions.