Sderot parents boycott new school year

Lindenstrauss "very worried" about security in Gaza periphery after visit.

sderot residents 298.88 (photo credit: AP)
sderot residents 298.88
(photo credit: AP)
The Sderot parents' committee announced on Wednesday night that they would not send their children to school when the year begins next week, Army Radio reported. The parents cited a High Court decision not to force the government to fortify local schools by the beginning of the school year. Earlier Wednesday, State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss visited regional councils near the Gaza Strip and said he was "very worried" about the state of the schools on the eve of the new school year. "The central government must do what it should be doing in a more substantial way," said Lindenstrauss. "We must do more to save lives." He added that he was preparing another report on the question of providing better protection against Kassam rockets being fired at Sderot and the Gaza periphery settlements from the Gaza Strip. The state comptroller visited the Eshkol and Sha'ar Hanegev Regional Councils and later went to meet evacuees from the Jewish settlements in the Gaza Strip currently living in Nitzan, between Ashkelon and Ashdod. In the morning, he was taken to see the Eshkol Regional High School, situated seven kilometers from the Strip. The roof of the school, like many others in the area, has not been fully fortified. Or Na'amati, head of the Eshkol Council, told Lindenstrauss that the cabinet approved a plan last week to set up mobile bomb shelters next to the classrooms. However, they will only be available at the end of October. Nevertheless, Na'amati said, the school year will open on schedule on September 2, in accordance with the instructions of the Home Front Command. Alon Shuster, head of the Sha'ar Hanegev Regional Council, told Lindenstrauss that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert had not kept his promise to provide funding to more effectively protect the 10 kibbutzim and one moshav that make up the regional council. The draft 2008 state budget did not include "a single shekel" for providing safe rooms for the homes there, Shuster said. The chemistry and physics labs at the Sha'ar Hanegev regional high school were not protected, he said, and the same was true of the informal education classrooms. About 150 students were expected to drop out of school because of the rocket threat, Shuster said. Meanwhile, the council is building a new primary school in Kibbutz Ruhama to replace the existing one, which is not fully fortified. In the meantime, the pupils will be split up. The younger grades will study in Kibbutz Bror Hayil and the older ones in Ruhama. "We are leaving very troubled," said Lindenstrauss at the end of his visit. The IDF said the reinforcement of a majority of schools and kindergartens in Gaza-belt communities would be completed by the end of 2007, some four months into the school year. Reinforcement of kindergartens on a list that was submitted by the councils to the IDF earlier this year has been completed, the army said, adding that reinforcement of a number of kindergartens recently added to the list would be completed by the end of the year. In total, 24 schools in Sderot and the Gaza periphery have been protected from Kassam rockets. The IDF said, however, that some local councils preferred to use the allocated funds not to reinforce existing buildings but rather to build new schools that will be reinforced during their construction.