Tamir: Sderot schools to open on schedule

Angry parents insist the government must meet certain conditions.

Yuli Tamir 88 224 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
Yuli Tamir 88 224
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
After meetings with the Sderot municipal council and the Sderot Parents' Association on Friday, Education Minister Yuli Tamir announced that the school year would open on schedule, despite continuing threats by parents that they would not send their children to school. Tamir said that during the first meeting, which did not include the parents, council members, school principals, Education Ministry officials and representatives of the Home Front Command reviewed each of the seven schools in the city and determined what improvements still needed to be made before September 2. She added that the Home Front Command, which is responsible for the security of the civilian population, will sign a separate document declaring that each of the seven schools is safe before it will be allowed to open. The major development to come out of the meeting was the decision to convert all of the schools' bomb shelters into classrooms. However, Batya Katar, head of the Sderot Parents' Association, said that despite Tamir's announcement, the school year will not open unless the government meets four preliminary conditions. The first is that Defense Minister Ehud Barak himself sign the documents declaring that each of the seven schools is safe and that he take personal responsibility for any harm that might befall the school children as a result of Kassam rocket attacks. Katar said she would not accept the signature of "some lower official" in the Home Front Command. According to another condition, any child whose parents want to send him to a school outside of Sderot would be allowed to do so. Sderot mayor Eli Moyal said during the meeting that he refused to agree to this. However, Katar said that according to the agreement reached at the end of the meeting with the Ministry of Education, each request to study outside Sderot will be considered on its own merits on the condition that the parents ask to send their child to a school outside the Kassam firing range and not to a kibbutz school or any other institution within the Gaza periphery. During the meeting, Tamir told the parents that the government would build six new schools for Sderot. Katar, however, insisted that within the next week, the Knesset Finance Committee ap-prove the budgets for the new schools and that the government provide a timetable and inform the parents of the name of the contractor for each of the schools and how long each building project will take. "We are fed up with the government's promises," she told The Jerusalem Post. Katar also demanded that the Education Ministry provide 54 fortified bus stops for children to wait for transportation to school. She said afterwards that Tamir was prepared to look into the demand, but wanted to know whether the parents would strike if it took longer than one week to build them. Katar replied that as long as the government provides official budget approval for the bus stop shelters before September 2, she will regard this demand as fulfilled. The meeting between the parents on the one hand, and Tamir, the local council and Education Ministry officials on the other, was tense. At the end of the first meeting, Tamir began to brief reporters on the results of the discussion. Katar and other angry parents broke into the council hall and demanded that Tamir wait until the end of the meeting with them before announcing the results of the meetings. Police used force to eject one of the parents, Dina Mor-Yosef, who swept documents, plates and glasses off the city councilor's table in a burst of anger. "My children are the victims of the government," shouted Mor-Yoseph. "All the ministers are worried about is their seats. My job is more important. It is to protect my children." Mor-Yosef told the Post her twin daughters had studied in an unprotected high school last year and that this year, she would be sending another daughter to an allegedly unprotected religious high school on the other side of town. "We want our children to study somewhere else, outside of Sderot," she demanded.