Strike? Education Ministry, Teachers' Union to reconvene on Monday

The Finance Ministry wants these teachers, especially those who work in the preschools, to be furloughed. The Teachers’ Union wants an alternative.

Children are returning to school in Israel amid the coronavirus pandemic. August 24, 2020. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Children are returning to school in Israel amid the coronavirus pandemic. August 24, 2020.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Education Minister Yoav Gallant repeatedly vowed that schooling will resume on September 1 as in every year, but it is still unclear if parents and teachers will strike.
A nearly all-day meeting in the courthouse between the Education Ministry and the Teachers' Union ended after 11 p.m. with a commitment to resume discussions again the next morning at 8 a.m.
The Finance Ministry wants these teachers, especially those who work in the preschools, to be furloughed. The Teachers’ Union wants an alternative.
At the same time, the National Parents Association has also said that they would not send their students on Tuesday if they are only guaranteed two days in the classrooms and the rest from home, which they say puts their children at risk on multiple fronts.
Head of the Teachers’ Union Yaffa Ben-David said that it was clear “to all who were in the hall” that the Education and Health Ministries “don’t care about at-risk educators… They need to give answers,” she said, “not to dodge [questions] as they did so far.”
Ben-David was speaking after a morning hearing, which the parties left without a conclusion.
Vice chairwoman of the union, Edna David, told N12 that, “The way things stand now we won’t be teaching this Tuesday.”
Education Minister director-general Amit Adri addressed the court on Sunday and said that the ministry will invest NIS 30 million in protective gear for teachers and kindergarten teachers. He also said that 400 positions for at-risk educators who are about to retire will be created to allow them to ease out of the profession. The figure was later increased to 800.
Specifically, the Education Ministry is asking the court to rule against the teachers’ right to strike. The union is demanding that remote teaching options be created for educators who are at risk or that the ministry finds a way to pay teachers who are unable to teach because they are at high-risk.
The current outline means kindergarten children and first and second graders will study as normal. Third and fourth graders will study in capsules at school, and fifth- and sixth-graders will study in small groups at school and part-time from home.
School days will range in length and be held at different hours in order to accommodate the capsules.
Moreover, parents across the country are saying that leaving fifth- and sixth-grade students alone at home for online learning is unreasonable.
As noted, the Israel Association of Parents, an umbrella group uniting more than 350 towns across the country, announced it would not send their children to schools unless they were taught in school more than three days per week. The association is calling for more in-school days claiming that children need to be in school for their development.
ASSOCIATE VICE chairwoman Odelia Cohen-Schondors told The Jerusalem Post that, “What we want is for local councils to take one extra step alongside us. If a fifth-grader is meant to study two days a week, take one step more and offer them three days. If three days, let them study four.
“A fifth-grade student is not a computer technician,” she continued. “Children must be able to have social aspects to their schooling.”
Ravit Ovadia, a teacher and a mother of a fifth-grader told N12 that it is unrealistic to expect an 11-year-old child to be left alone for a whole day and not only look after his own needs but to also work remotely to complete his school duties.
She added that children are exposed to “dangers” when using the internet and this is an extra cause of concern for her.
Finally, school buses are meant to transport as many as 50 children per bus, making the division into capsules less effective. At this point in time, it is not clear how the Education Ministry means to monitor the health of students and teachers and cut the chain of infections as they are likely to occur.
“We can’t do now what we did in May,” Hebrew University Prof. Ora Paltiel told Haaretz, “to work as if everything is normal. Because then the schools will shut down and we gained nothing.”
On a more positive note, parents of preschoolers and first-graders who need to adjust to school this year will be allowed to enter their children’s classrooms, according to a decision by the Health Ministry.
“As a parent who used to accompany children as they entered kindergartens and first grade, I know how important this moment is for children and parents,” Health Minister Yuli Edelstein said. “I’m glad we found a solution that will keep the children, parents and staff safe, but will not deprive parents of the right to know their children’s learning environment and educational staff, and will not deprive children of parental presence, when they need it most.”
According to the Health Ministry, experts were consulted on the matter before the decision was made.
Up to six parents will be able to enter a classroom at a time, following Health Ministry directives, such as wearing masks and social distancing. The parents will also be able to stay in the schoolyard and offer support as needed during the first days.
A formal declaration of the decision was sent by Health Ministry deputy director-general Itamar Grotto to the Education Ministry.
“In light of the need to balance the consideration of preventing infection from the coronavirus, and the need to allow appropriate adaptation to young children, we reexamined the issue,” Grotto wrote. “Given the low risk of morbidity in these settings, according to data from the Health Ministry, data from around the world and the fact that masks and distance and hygiene provide excellent protection against infection,” parents will be allowed to enter.