Following a meeting with the Sderot Parents Association, Education Minister Yuli Tamir said that the school year would start as planned in the beleaguered town. Tamir conceded, however, that the issue of the schools' fortification was "not a simple one" and that there was a "long way to go" before there could be full protection. "We ended the meeting in a good atmosphere. We were presented with a number of requests and I am sure they will be fulfilled and that the school year will start on time," Tamir told reporters. The education minister said there was a feeling of "real cooperation," following the talks, adding that "we came out of the meeting with a determination to work together." Tamir went on to praise the western Negev town's schooling. "There is a wonderful education establishment here. The teachers have done a fantastic job." Despite Tamir's satisfaction over the meeting's outcome, police were called to quell a disturbance that broke out during the talks, when several Sderot parents who were not members of the association burst into the meeting hall and started voicing their demands. Tamir's associates also claimed that a few of the parents pushed them violently. The education minister's security guards ushered her from the hall before police were called to the scene. There are about 2,400 primary and secondary school students enrolled in seven schools in Sderot. On Tuesday, the High Court of Justice handed down a decision to suspend a ruling ordering the state to fully protect all of the schools in Sderot and the Gaza periphery against Kassam rockets no later than September 2, the first day of the 2007-2008 school year. The court's decision meant the state's obligation has been indefinitely postponed and the year would open without the schools being fully protected. In fact, it has been known for months that the court's ruling, handed down on May 29, couldn't possibly be implemented according to the timetable it set. Furthermore, the government has decided that rather than fully fortify the existing schools - an expensive project with unaesthetic results - it will build new schools. This program is expected to take at least two years to complete. Recently, the Home Front Command announced that it would have four schools in Sderot and the Gaza periphery communities fully fortified by September 2. It was not clear how many of these were in Sderot. According to Sderot Parents Association head Batya Katar, however, the fortification provided even for these schools is designed to withstand only a three-kilogram warhead. The terrorist organizations are currently using warheads weighing 10 to 12 kilograms, she said. Katar told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday that the parents would send their children to school, but only if the government agreed to four conditions:
Defense Minister Ehud Barak must sign a formal document accepting personal responsibility for the safety of the children in the schools.
The government must sign documents approving the construction and budgeting of seven new schools for Sderot.
The Education Ministry must allow any child living in Sderot who wants to enroll in a school outside the town to do so. So far, the ministry has refused.
The government must provide safe shelter for children waiting for school buses, and must see to it that children do not have to wait long for these buses.