When schools lock down, it will be over objections of teachers, parents

‘A school needs to be a sane place,’ principal Zeev Dagani said after announcing he will not shut down Herzliya Hebrew Gymnasium if ordered to do so.

Students return for the new school year, September 1, 2020 (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Students return for the new school year, September 1, 2020
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
If the government adopts a strict nationwide lockdown to battle the outbreak of COVID-19, most schools across the country will close for an indefinite period on Wednesday.
Although much of the lockdown will take place over the High Holy Days and Sukkot, when students are not at school, weeks of teaching time likely will be lost. This compounds the disruption caused by the previous lockdown in March and April during the last school year, when classes were also severely affected.
Schooling prospects in the longer term are unclear. The government will have to adapt its education policy according to the medical sector’s efforts in bringing the coronavirus infection rate under control, and parents, students and teachers will have to adapt accordingly. No tentative end date for the lockdown has yet been announced.
When the holiday period is over, students from fifth grade and up will be expected to conduct their studies through a computer link. Many are likely to miss out, being that 20% of the country’s children do not have a home computer. The Education Ministry has not been able to purchase and deliver enough computers to schools before the new school year began on September 1.
The guidelines for children in lower grades and for kindergartens are still unclear. Special-needs schools are expected to remain open.
Education Minister Yoav Gallant said as far as he was concerned, schools should only be closed during the holidays, from the start of Rosh Hashanah until after Simchat Torah (September 18 to October 10). The coronavirus cabinet decided that schools should shut down this Wednesday. It later accepted Gallant’s opinion, and he thanked his fellow ministers in a Tweet on Sunday.  
Herzliya Hebrew Gymnasium principal Zeev Degani said he would not close his school on Wednesday because “a school needs to be a place of sanity,” KAN News tweeted on Sunday.
“In the current situation there is no leadership,” he said, blaming the government for acting according to political motivations rather than health considerations.
“I won’t accept [this],” Degani said, adding that his school would remain open until Friday.
“This country’s parents are astounded by the rapid pace in which the government makes decisions and then changes them,” Parent’s Association vice chairwoman Odelia Cohen-Schondors told The Jerusalem Post. “The policy has no logic, and parents cannot trust it.”
“When the government announces a lockdown, it should also publish an exit plan,” she said, adding that parents did not want their children to learn remotely “because it is useless.”
Children cannot stay home without supervision, Cohen-Schondors said. At best, remote means can ensure teachers stay in touch with their classes and offer emotional support, but not much more, she said.
“We all know that if schools are shut down, parents will have to stay home and mind their children,” Cohen-Schondors said.
“We demand that days spent under lockdown are given back as normal school days at the end of the year and that teachers will be compensated for working during their break,” she said.
“The Finance Ministry must plan now how it will pay the teachers for such days,” Cohen-Schondors said, adding that more lockdowns will likely happen.
Teacher’s Union head Yafa Ben David objected to the current plan to exclude special education from the nationwide lockdown. She asked Health Minister Yuli Edelstein in a public letter how was it possible to assume that “the virus skips” over such classes.  
Unlike other schools, children with special needs are unable to comply with the demands of social distancing, and schools that serve them usually accept children from a variety of towns, increasing the risk of infection, Ben David said.
“If you mean to close schools, you should also shut down classes for children with special needs, as you did during the previous lockdown,” she wrote.
Parents of children with special needs who require a steady daily routine objected to the closure in March and April, as many of their children could not understand why their daily lives were being disrupted.