Independent cities forum defies COVID restrictions, to open grades 7-10

The forum published an outline for reopening schools two weeks before the Health Ministry's reopening guidelines stipulate.

Back to school amid a pandemic (photo credit: YOSSI ZAMIR/FLASH90)
Back to school amid a pandemic
(photo credit: YOSSI ZAMIR/FLASH90)
The "Forum of 15 Independent Cities" announced on Sunday that starting this Wednesday, 14 of the forum's 15 municipalities will begin allowing schoolchildren from grades 7-10, who have largely remained home during the past year, to partially return to school activities, including students in major cities such as Tel Aviv, Haifa, and Beersheba.
This, despite the Health Ministry's guidelines, which stated last week that the date of reopening of studies in these classrooms will not be pushed up due to fears of an increase in coronavirus morbidity.
The forum said in a statement that "in light of the fact that the Coronavirus Cabinet has determined that the return of seventh to tenth grade students to school activities will not take place before March 9, and in light of the prolonged absence of these students from schools, and the severe pedagogical, social and psychological impact on them, mayors who are members of the Forum met for an emergency consultation on the subject, at the end of which it was decided that starting on Wednesday, February 24, the forum's municipalities will allow school principals to return 7th to 10th grade students to school activities."
The member cities of the forum are Ashdod, Beersheba, Givatayim, Herzliya, Hadera, Holon, Haifa, Kfar Saba, Netanya, Petah Tikva, Rishon Lezion, Rehovot, Ramat Gan, Ra'anana and Tel Aviv-Yafo and they will allow school principals discretion on whether to return the children to their studies, subject to immunization rates among teaching staff as well as the city itself.
The Petah Tikva municipality announced after the letter was published that while they support the move, they will continue to wait for Health Ministry approval before reopening.  
According to the outline published by the forum, seventh to tenth grade students will come to school at least twice a week for four hours each day, or three times a week for three hours at a time. 
There is no obligation to teach all the subjects in school and some of the subjects will continue to be taught remotely. In addition, they will allow schools to teach in shifts and it will also be possible to combine classroom learning with learning in extracurricular spaces.
The outline further stipulates that the manner of resumption of schooling will be done at the discretion of the principal and in consultation with the municipality, and with reference to the scope of vaccinations among teaching staff, the general scope of immunization in neighborhoods where students reside, school size and number of students. 
The forum stressed that the outline was voluntary, and being suggested as an alternative for the safe reopening of schools in areas with low infection rates, not as a mandate to act against government regulations.
"The mayors and municipalities of the 15th Forum undertake to provide the principals and the teaching staff with the full support required to operate this outline," the letter reads.
"We hope that other local authorities where studies are held for first- and sixth- and eleventh-twelfth-grade students will join this outline, and we believe that the government and the Corona Cabinet should also join it."
Translated by Idan Zonshine.