An estimated 1,466,829 pupils are set to begin the 2008/09 school year on Monday morning, up 20,000 from a year ago, unless a threatened strike materializes. Ninety-one new schools will be around to accommodate the children, but 2,000 fewer staff members will be working compared to a year ago, the Education Ministry said at a press conference in Tel Aviv on Thursday morning. As part of the ministry's "New Horizon" reform program, three areas will be targeted for improvement in the classroom: a larger emphasis on one-on-one time between teachers and students; more time spent strengthening team and leadership skills; and the advancement of both successful and struggling students. The Education Ministry's five-year plan for the Arab sector features a detailed program to familiarize students who come from Arabic-speaking homes with Hebrew, and initiatives to better integrate Beduin, Druse and Arab students into the school system. The ministry officials also covered proposed changes to the law requiring students to remain in school through the 12th grade, and the guidelines concerning the advancement of outstanding students. Although the days leading up to the start of the school year have been rocky - late-night meetings have seen last-minute deals forged to prevent various educational factors from striking - no mention of those problems was made on Thursday, and the ministry is planning on a timely start to the school year. But with issues concerning both security guards at schools and safety code violations still unresolved, the first day of school has not been set in stone just yet.