Israeli kindergartens reopen after two months

Hundreds of thousands of children return to daycare, joining those in grades 1-3 and 11-12, but almost 2 million more still waiting to go back to school.

By Paul Shindman, World Israel News

Several hundred thousand children returned to kindergartens and daycare centers Sunday as Israel’s education system took slow and methodical steps to reopen after nearly two months due to the coronavirus pandemic.

They joined students in grades 1-to-3 and 11-12 who returned to school last week according to social distancing and health guidelines reducing class size and forcing teachers to rotate which students come to class on different days.

Education Minister Rafi Peretz welcomed them back, but cautioned parents that the pandemic was ongoing.

“With the return of the children in the framework of a staged return to routine it is important to pay attention. The corona is not gone,” Peretz tweeted, calling for children to not mix in with any other groups of kids after school.

“Adhering to the instructions is very necessary at this point and should be followed for the sake of the children and the public at large,” Peretz said.

Kindergartens reopened as the number of new virus infections continued to drop, and officials expressed optimism that the entire school system will be running by the end of the month, with universities and colleges set to reopen on June 14 providing the infection numbers remain low.

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“We are gradually moving step by step,” Education Ministry Director-General Shmuel Abuav told Channel 13 news. “If there is no glitch, we will move on to grades four through 10, and then look at the situation for the summer vacation.”

Kindergarten class sizes are limited to 18 children in two groups of nine to reduce the chance of infection, and most children will be able to go only three days a week so that everybody gets a chance to attend.

The restrictions mean up to a quarter of a million children will have to be at home for part of the week, creating a headache for working parents.

Because of the conditions, the Ministry of Education said attendance is voluntary. Schools have been holding online classes for the past month in order to keep students learning.

Israel shuttered the education system back in mid-March and followed that with stricter measures that crippled its previously robust economy.

Over a million Israelis have lost their jobs in the crisis and are hoping that getting all of Israel’s roughly 2.3 million students back in school will hasten their own return to work.