Education Ministry denies preparing 'realignment team'

Education Ministry officials on Wednesday downplayed a report on Ynet's Web site that the ministry was already preparing for a proposed withdrawal from most of the West Bank by identifying educational institutions beyond the Green Line where students would be effected and preparing a psychological assistance plan for future evacuees. "The report was out of proportion," said a source associated with the Education Ministry's south district, which is responsible for students and teachers evacuated from Gush Katif. "What exists at this point is a very preliminary forum that was created in the framework of preparations for the next school year. This forum takes into account the possibility of a realignment, but it's not making any operative plans." While the director of the south district, Amira Haim, was quoted on Ynet as saying that the ministry had created a "realignment team," the official response released by the district was, "At this stage, the educational team is only concerned with the evacuees from the Gaza Strip." The district's spokeswoman said, "In the framework of preparations for the forthcoming school year, the team [responsible for former students in Gush Katif] was drawing conclusions from the district's preparations for and during disengagement, from an educational perspective." "In the event that the government decides on realignment," the spokeswoman said, "government ministries in general and the Education Ministry in particular will take the necessary steps." Representatives of the Education Ministry in Jerusalem told The Jerusalem Post that both Education Minister Yuli Tamir and ministry Director-General Shmuel Abuav had been unaware of the south district's preparations and projections, and that neither had instructed it to begin such preparations.