The Education Ministry will open a situation room on Sunday night in preparation for the opening of the 2012-2013 school year on Monday.The situation room is meant to ensure that the year opens smoothly and give immediate answers to questions on the new school year. In addition, each region will have its own situation room, which will be in touch with the ministry in Jerusalem for advice, updates and instructions via video calls.The situation room will be open on Sunday from 6-10 p.m., and will reopen Monday from 6:30-10 a.m. Teachers, parents and students with questions can call 1-212-234-567.In addition, staff will update the Education Ministry’s Facebook page throughout Sunday and answer questions posted online.There will be 1,564,742 students enrolled in schools this year, a 1.36 percent decrease from last year, in 61,890 classes, a 1.73% increase, an average of 25 children per class.The Education Ministry expects there to be 394,012 preschoolers, a 2.8% increase, and 145,857 first-graders in the upcoming school year, 0.47% more than 2011-2012. This year, 374,103 students will enter high school, 0.54% more than last year.State secular Hebrew-language Education Ministry schools are expected to have 671,748 students, as opposed to 210,368 in state religious schools, 229,926 in independent but recognized schools, which are mostly haredi, and 49,113 in Talmud Torah schools. The Education Ministry expects 417,214 students to enroll in non-Jewish schools.This year, the government will implement free education for children aged three and four. There are 317,000 children in the relevant age group, 100,000 of whom were previously eligible for free early childhood education because of low socioeconomic status.Another 142,000 attended public preschools, but their parents were required to pay NIS 800 before this year. 860 preschools opened ahead of the new school year, and 910 early education teachers will be newly employed.An additional 75,000 either attend private preschools or no school. The Education Ministry expects 500 private preschools to open this year.Ahead of the new school year, Knesset Education Committee chairwoman Einat Wilf (Independence) is encouraging teachers to present new, interesting educational initiatives.The committee has held five two-hour meetings since June, in which teachers and principals discussed their pedagogical ideas, and Wilf invites others to contact her and participate in future meetings.“The education system can only succeed, excel and build itself by listening to teachers and their attempts to solve problems,” Wilf explained. The committee chairwoman said the meetings allow teachers to share their professional experiences, giving other educators new tools.One such idea was presented by Roni Hazon Weiss, a Jerusalem teacher, who described a parliament she formed in her school, in which students vote on decisions that influence their lives as students.Another teacher, Dr. Suhir Rehani Basharat of the Galil School in Nazareth, presented a project encouraging high school students to be more socially involved.