Grades 4 to 10 Go Back to School on Staggered Schedules

Face masks and the health form that Israeli students are asked to sign on arriving at school for the first time since the outbreak of the coronavirus in March. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

The Israeli Education Ministry announced on Monday night the latest increments in its gradual reopening of the school system.

The fourth through tenth grades will be able to go back to school next Sunday, with restrictions.

But not all grades will be treated the same. Fourth through sixth graders will have five to six hours of school a week, while seventh through 10th graders will go back two to three days per week.

The maximum number of pupils per classroom will be 20 in grades 4-12, and social distancing or masks will be required.

Fourth through sixth graders will attend school on Fridays, or alternatively in the afternoon, and after first through third graders have left the premises.

Tenth graders will return for two days a week, and 7th through 9th graders will spend three days at middle schools and two days a week at campuses for grades one through eight are combined.

While it has been generally acknowledged that for many parents return to work depends on return to school, and as long as their children are home for large segments of the week, the parents’ ability to work and earn a livelihood remain significantly impaired.

Initial response to the plan was unwelcoming. The chairman of the Federation of Local Authorities issued a statement saying:

“The plan presented to us tonight is way out of line and completely detached from reality,” Haim Bibas said, according to The Times of Israel. “Students cannot come for one day a week, when others are coming for two days a week.”

“Either open the entire education system or don’t open it at all.”

“I ask all of you to apply all of the pressure necessary so that all children, and all parents, can return to normalcy as soon as possible,” he added.

Classrooms will be closed on Tuesday, Lag BaOmer, as the Finance Ministry and the teachers’ union could not agree on terms.

Israel partly reopened nurseries and kindergartens on Sunday, for the first time since the coronavirus outbreak in mid-March.

Preschoolers were allowed back with enhanced hygiene requirements and group sizes capped – 17 for nurseries, 18 for kindergartens – to allow for social distancing.

Kindergartens are for now accommodating the overflow by admitting children on a rotating half-week basis. Nurseries, by contrast, have allowed only 70 percent of children back, on full-week schedules, the Labor and Welfare Ministry said.

In selecting which nursery children return, staff give priority to those from broken families or with single or working mothers, a ministry spokeswoman said. “We are trying to find creative solutions for the other 30 percent,” she said.

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