Israel’s cabinet announced on Friday afternoon that schools across the country would open classes on Sunday from first to third grades and 11th to 12th grades after a closure of almost two months due to the coronavirus pandemic. But many local authorities decided to delay the return to school due to growing dissatisfaction with the government’s handling of the issue.Not only was there insufficient notice for municipalities, school staff and parents, none of whom were properly prepared to go back to school, but the practical guidelines issued were unclear and even confusing. The result can be summed up in one word – balagan – a chaotic situation, which that could have been avoided. With almost 450,000 children returning to classrooms, teachers and parents needed to be thoroughly briefed about exactly how they should behave. It was certainly not enough to announce that the number of pupils per classroom was limited to 17 and stipulate that children and teachers must wear masks and maintain social distancing.A red light was immediately lit by members of Forum-15, the Israeli Forum of Self-Governed Cities, which represents most of the country’s main cities. They called the government’s decision “irresponsible and even dangerous, despite its good intentions,” and said they could not implement it responsibly with such short notice.Among those cities refusing to open schools on Sunday were Tel Aviv, Haifa, Beersheba, Ramat Gan, Ramat Hasharon, Bnei Brak, Rehovot, Safed, Karmiel, Kiryat Malachi, Kiryat Gat and parts of Jerusalem and Beit Shemesh.Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai appeared on Channel 12 television on Friday night to voice his outrage at the hasty decision, saying he had “lost faith” in the authorities who ordered the partial return to school so soon.“Out of responsibility for the well-being and health of the children and educational staff, we will not be able to open our educational institutions until we have learned, understood and followed guidelines that will be issued at a later date,” Huldai declared. “I can promise parents that just as we knew how to reopen special education classes, we will know how to reopen the entire municipal education system – but only after we take steps to ensure the children’s safety.”The government clarified that local authorities were not obligated to open schools within their jurisdiction, with the Education Ministry saying they had until May 5 at the latest to reopen and that attendance was not mandatory except for matriculation students. This mixed message only complicated the situation even further for local authorities and parents who wanted to do the right thing and make sure their children were being protected.There are real concerns that children returning to school could become carriers of the virus and infect adults. Prof. Eitan Kerem, head of the pediatric division of Hadassah Medical Center and chairman of Goshen, an organization promoting childhood community health, correctly urged the authorities to do daily testing of school pupils.“From what we know, small children can become infected, but they infect others less and become less ill. And because we don’t currently have sufficient data, the children must be tested and closely monitored,” he said. “Our concern is over the infection of adults, and therefore we must test and monitor them to see if there is an increase in the number of those infected and ensure that there won’t be another infestation wave.”While Education Minister Rafi Peretz backed the decision for the partial return to school, he anticipated intense discussions with the Health Ministry about opening up the rest of the school system. We urge all those involved to thoroughly consider the ramifications of their decisions before reopening any more classes.Because this is a serious matter, involving human lives, there is a lesson in this for all of us, and especially for the powers that be. Like any good student, they need to do their homework as thoroughly as possible. They need to consult with medical and educational experts and learn from other countries such as Taiwan and Singapore about how to operate schools responsibly. And then, perhaps most importantly, they need to show transparency, explain the rationale for their decisions, and give us clear and unambiguous rules to which we can all abide.