Israel Education Head to Principals: Coronavirus Likely to Disrupt School Year

YERUSHALAYIM -
Israeli children riding to school on an Egged city bus in Yerushalayim. (Flash90)

Schools could be next on the list of institutions and venues affected by coronavirus. In a letter to school principals Monday, Education Ministry Director-General Shmuel Abuav said that they needed to prepare themselves for massive student absences and teacher shortages. “As practical people, we are working under the assumption that the situation will get worse, and interfere with lessons and classes. I am hopeful that will not happen, but if it does, we will hopefully be in a position to reduce the damage.”

An example of what could happen occurred last week when over 1,000 students at a high school in Kibbutz Givat Brenner in central Israel were told to stay home, after a 15-year-old student was found to have contracted coronavirus. The student had been one of several thousand people exposed to a carrier of the virus at a soccer game in Tel Aviv. When it was discovered that the student had been exposed, the school was shuttered. Students are set to remain in quarantine until a week from Wednesday.

The ministry already last week conducted an emergency education drill, “in the event that schools will be closed for extended periods.” The distance-learning drill involved “students undertaking an assignment at home using connected software.” Education officials said that the coronavirus panic had the capacity “to seriously disrupt the rest of the school year. We need to be ready for the possibility that tens of thousands of students will be out of class for an extended period.”

Abuhav said in his letter Monday that more such drills will be conducted, and if needed classes and courses will be held in this manner. “We in the Education Ministry are preparing the system to deal with this challenge and a number of scenarios. We hope for the best. I trust and rely on you, administrators, your professionalism, responsibility and dedication to stand up to these challenges and deal with the situation in the best manner possible,” Abuhav added.