Israeli school system remains open even as corona outbreak sends 1,000s of students home

New outbreaks close dozens of schools and send 1,000s into quarantine, but the government is not jumping to shut down the education system yet.

By Paul Shindman, World Israel News

Schools in at least three different cities were closed Wednesday, joining several dozen others that have been shuttered after students and teachers tested positive for the coronavirus.

The closing of schools in Beer Sheba, Tel Aviv, Hadera and Bat Yam added pressure to the education and health ministries to review guidelines and procedures since schools in Israel reopened last month after being closed since March due to the pandemic.

However, Education Minister Yoav Gallant said there was no reason to shut down the education system again.

“Ministry of Health figures have not changed dramatically and there is no justification for the closure of the middle and high schools,” Gallant tweeted. “It will be irresponsible harm to students, parents and teachers. At the same time, we must continue to have a finger on the pulse.”

“Wherever a verified patient is identified, the educational institution is closed,” Gallant said.

As of Wednesday some 40 schools have been closed and approximately 10,000 students and teachers are in home quarantine. However, in the rest of Israel almost 5,000 schools remain open.

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Ministry of Health figures released Tuesday evening showed another 72 Israelis were infected with coronavirus, bringing the confirmed total to 17,285, although 14,940 of them have fully recovered and only 106 people are currently hospitalized with the virus. However, a nationwide serology test showed that the real figure of infected Israelis is closer to 200,000.

Education and health authorities were criticized for having a different standard for schools than for shopping malls.

“Educational institutions are the most crowded place in the country these days. While the standard does not allow more than four people to stay at the same time in a 100 square meter store, in classrooms, in a much smaller area, dozens are crammed,” wrote Israel Hayom columnist Meital Yasur Beit-Or, saying that while Knesset members sit in meetings separated by plastic barriers, “our children sit in classrooms of 35 and 40 children at zero distance from each other.”

She noted that recommendations for monitoring schools after they reopened last month have not been implemented and the renewed outbreaks were no surprise.