Israel approves opening of schools

The decision will be updated within the framework of a public health order by the director-general of the Health Ministry.

By Aaron Sull, World Israel News

Israeli schools will open for grades 1-3 and 11-12, according to government approval, with the exception of ultra-Orthodox institutions that will accept students in grades 7-11.

At this stage, except for matriculation examinations classes will not be defined as mandatory.

Special education pupils will fully return to classes. For youth at risk, hours will be agreed on separately.

Next week, preparations will be completed for daycare and kindergartens to return to school by Sunday, May 10. An assessment of the situation will be held before their return.

Regarding grades 4-10, an outline will be formulated regarding a return no later than June 1.

The announcement was made on Friday following a consultation led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, which took into consideration the situation in other countries as well as the findings of the report by the Gertner Institute for Epidemiology and Health Policy Research at Sheba Medical Center. According to the report, children are less likely to catch the coronavirus or to spread it to others.

Despite the government’s decision to reopen schools for select grades, some cities, including Tel Aviv, are refusing to comply.

Whether to reopen classes was put to a vote on Friday, after the National Security Council recommended on Thursday that schools remain closed for an additional week to give them enough time to prepare for the new coronavirus educational guidelines laid out by the Health Ministry.

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Ever since schools shut down in mid-March, the Education Ministry and the Health Ministry have been at odds with each other, with the former saying the risk of infection in children is low and the latter advising to err on the side of caution.

With pressure mounting from parents itching to get back to work, the Education Ministry instructed school management and administration teams last week to prepare for a May 3 reopening.

However, strict coronavirus guidelines must be adhered to. Classrooms will be limited to 15 students and desks must be placed two meters apart from each other. Faculty members and students in second and third grades will be required to wear masks outside the classroom, and all social distancing guidelines are to be followed.

In addition, parents must sign off daily on health forms confirming that their children have not exhibited coronavirus symptoms and have not been in contact with a family member who has the virus.

Since Israel’s schools were forced to shut down in an effort to protect students from the deadly virus, many teachers have utilized teleconferencing applications such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams to continue teaching.