After keeping Israeli children out of school for more days last year than in any other Western country, the Bennett administration pushed to put the country’s students back in their classrooms.
Six weeks after school started, and about two weeks after the “Green Class” program that was originally developed by Sheba Medical Center at Tel Hashomer entered mainstream schools, it seems to all be working.
Infection and isolation rates are down, vaccination rates are up, and parents can go to work.
As such, on Tuesday, the Education Ministry announced that the Green Class program would expand on Sunday, October 24, to “yellow” authorities and include students in preschool and kindergarten.
This will mean that hundreds of thousands of students will be able to continue studying even when a classmate is diagnosed with the virus.
To make it possible, so far, about 3.7 million rapid coronavirus testing kits have been distributed to elementary schools and preschools. The ministry said the kit distribution will continue next week.
Until now, the Green Class regulations applied only to students in elementary schools in green authorities.
The ministry said that a separate outline would be formulated for students living in orange and red authorities with higher rates of infection.
As of Wednesday, there were 168 green and 65 yellow authorities.
The Green Class model focuses on creating a healthy and normal routine for students after nearly 18 months of coronavirus chaos. The goal is to maximize the amount of in-school learning that students receive and to minimize the number of days parents have to take off work to watch children who are in isolation.
“The sequence of studies allows students in the education system to reduce the emotional, social and educational gaps they have accumulated during the coronavirus period,” the ministry said.
However, students in the Green Class program who have been near an infected classmate will still not be able to participate in after-school activities with students from other schools or enter places where the Green Pass applies.
Since the beginning of the month, morbidity among students has been generally declining, the Education Ministry showed. Specifically, there has been a more than 50% drop in the number of new cases in the education system.
There were around 10,420 students verified with the virus as of Tuesday, the ministry said, compared to 21,617 on the first day of October.
So far, the isolation of thousands of students in hundreds of classrooms has been avoided due to the program, it said.
Analyzing the data, as of October 17, in almost two-thirds (64%) of classes in which a sick student was detected, no other sick students were discovered during the pilot program, which consisted of much fewer schools. Since the program was launched more extensively, in about 87% of classes in which an infected student was found, up to two additional students were verified.
In 82% of classrooms, there were no infected children by day seven.
Students who are vaccinated or recovered do not need to be isolated and therefore do not take part in the Green Class program. To date, there are about 940,000 students out of 2.4 million who are exempt from isolation: 16% of preschoolers, 27% of first through seventh graders and 74% of eighth through twelfth-grade students.
Almost all schools (98%) have been assigned a coronavirus commissioner to help ensure that health guidelines are being followed. The position is paid for by the government.
On Wednesday, Education Minister Dr. Yifat Shasha-Biton asked that the role of commissioner be in place through July 21, 2022, to allow this position to operate during summer school programs.
There are two other efforts that have been rolled out to keep students safe: The “Magen” or “Education Shield” program and in-school vaccinations.
So far, 665 schools from 165 authorities throughout the country have enrolled in the Magen program. Less than 1% of students in that program have tested positive for the virus: 832 out of 103,722.
Moreover, upwards of 23,000 students have been vaccinated in their schools, the ministry said.