Parents petition High Court against long kindergarten day

Groups seeks to extend the learning day from 1:10 p.m. to 2 p.m. for children under five in state-run kindergartens.

Kindergarten children 311 (photo credit: Courtesy
Kindergarten children 311
(photo credit: Courtesy
A group of parents petitioned the High Court of Justice Thursday over an Education Ministry decision to extend the learning day from 1:10 p.m. to 2 p.m. for children under five in state-run kindergartens.
Lead by lawyer Sagit Levi- Rosen, the group of nine parents named on the petition argued that the later finish time is problematic because it means that the young children are not allowed a lunch break before 2 p.m. and are not provided with a meal in kindergarten. They also accused the Education Ministry of launching the longer learning day program without adequately notifying parents and pointed out that the decision causes chaos for families with older children already in school, which ends half an hour or more earlier.
“It is totally unnecessary for such little children to be in a framework like this for such long hours,” commented Adi Strasman, one of the parents named in the case.
“I have two older children, one in 2nd grade and the other in 4th grade, even they finish earlier than the little one. It is really crazy.”
Strasman, who lives in Givat Shmuel, explained that with her kindergartener learning until 2 p.m., he does not get to eat his lunch until much later and he either comes home starving or simply forgoes food because it is too late.
“There is no workplace that does not allow their employees to eat when it is lunchtime. Even for an adult waiting such a long time for this meal is difficult. So why is the Education Ministry forcing this upon little children?” asked Strasman, pointing out that the ministry had designated this academic year to teaching children about health issues.
“Waiting so long to eat is not healthy at all,” she said.
Strasman and the other parents named on the petition have spent the last few months organizing themselves on Facebook and other social media to gauge public opinion on this matter. She said that hundreds of people have joined the group’s Facebook page and even more signed onto an online petition.
“We have even had messages of support from the kindergarten teachers themselves who say that it is very difficult working with children who are tired and hungry during such a long day,” said Strasman, highlighting that the transition from kindergarten to an afterschool program, which many children attend while their parents are at work, is because the afternoon should be a time for them to rest.
The Education Ministry started implementing the longer kindergarten day last year as part of its “Ofek Hadash” (“New Horizons”) educational program aimed partly at extending study time for students and partly to help increase the salaries of teachers and kindergarten teachers.
This year, the program was expanded to include thousands more kindergartens around the country.
“It does not make sense that the older children finish earlier than the younger children,” commented Joanne Shalit, a Jerusalem mother of three. “Parents arrive to pick their children up from school at 12:45 or 1:30 and then have to wait half an hour to take home their kindergarten children too.”
According to the parents behind the petition, complaints were made to the Education Ministry who told them that the new arrangement could not be changed and that the children will eventually get used to the longer day.
Levi-Rosen said that she was waiting to hear in the coming days whether the court would hear the petition.