Israel schools to open Sept. 1 despite coronavirus, Gallant says

The plan was formulated by the Education Ministry, in collaboration with the Finance Ministry and is meant to allow parents to return to work after summer break and keep the economy moving.

Education Minister Yoav Gallant holds a press conference at the Education Ministry in Tel Aviv, August 6, 2020 (photo credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI/FLASH90)
Education Minister Yoav Gallant holds a press conference at the Education Ministry in Tel Aviv, August 6, 2020
(photo credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI/FLASH90)
Despite comments to the contrary by the Health Ministry, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu insisted on Monday that the school year will open for all children on September 1.
 
“The school year will open as planned and according to the outline formulated by Education Minister Yoav Gallant,” Netanyahu said Monday in a closed part of the Likud faction meeting.
 
His comments came the day after coronavirus commissioner Prof. Ronni Gamzu said the Health Ministry was considering delaying the start of the school year for children above grade four.
 
However, Monday morning, Gallant told a Knesset committee discussing the subject that the school year will open and “whoever says differently causes panic.” Education Ministry director-general Amit Edry added that his ministry is working together with the local authorities, “with full vigor and intensity, so that the gates of the educational institutions will open September 1.”
 
Gallant presented the framework on Monday by which students will return to school in three weeks in the shadow of coronavirus.
The plan was formulated by the Education Ministry in collaboration with the Finance Ministry and is meant to allow parents to return to work after summer break and keep the economy moving.
 
“The education system will open… to ensure the stability of the Israeli economy,” Gallant confirmed, stressing that the framework relies on two important principles: continuity and flexibility.
 
He added that, “Not everything in this plan is perfect, but we are giving you 100% of our best efforts.”
 
Children will go to school in-person and/or learn from home depending on their age. Students in preschool will have a full, six-day school week and will operate without restrictions.
 
Grades 1 and 2 will learn almost as usual, five days per week and with their normal classroom sizes.
 
Third and fourth graders will also study five days per week, but in groups of 18 or fewer students and with each student sitting at a separate table.
 
In contrast, fifth- and sixth-grade students will learn partially from school and partially via remote learning. Students will be expected to be in their classrooms twice a week, in capsules of no more than 18 students. The other three days they will be at home.
 
Special education students, at-risk youth and integration children will study as a matter of routine, even when educational institutions are closed. There will be training of education teams to work with special populations under these circumstances.
 
According to the framework, students in preschool through grade 2 and all special education students will not be required to wear masks. Students in grades 3 will wear them during recess and only children in grades 4 and above will be required to wear masks all the time.
 
All students will be obligated to bring in a signed health form every day.

 
THE CAPSULE system will require additional teachers to be hired and hence the Education Ministry is looking to recruit more staff. According to Gallant, another 13,000 positions are still to be filled – 6,500 teachers and another 6,500 educational aides, who are meant to be recruited by the local authorities.
 
Moreover, in order to ensure that students who do not have proper technology can manage distance learning, the ministry hopes to provide computers to some 144,000 students and smartphones to 64,000. The goal is to have these devices purchased and delivered to at least half of the students by the end of January 2021.
 
The cost of making this all happen, according to the Education Ministry, is NIS 4.2 billion, the allocation which was expected to pass in the Knesset Finance Committee late Monday night after press time, according to the spokesman for Knesset Education Committee chairman MK Ram Shefa.
 
The government approved the funds last week.
 
Gallant and Edry boycotted the previous Knesset session on the subject.
 
On Sunday, in an interview with KAN News, Gamzu said that the Health Ministry was considering pushing off the start of the school year for children in grades 4 and above and that his professional consultants were still weighing in on the matter.
 
Similarly, on Monday morning, Health Ministry director-general Chezy Levy told Ynet that while there is a framework as presented by Gallant at the Knesset, “there is no decision yet. We hope we can open preschools and grades one through three.”
 
In response to Gallant’s presentation, Teachers’ Union head Yaffa Ben-David accused the Education Ministry of “having fallen asleep.”
 
“How did anyone think that in a class of 35 children it is possible to keep two meters? It isn’t applicable,” she said. “The parents are lying when they state that they have checked their children’s temperatures.”
 
Ben-David said “there are three things that, if we do not receive them from the Finance Ministry by the start of the school year, I will declare a labor dispute: pension, sick days and a solution for teachers at risk.”