Gov’t Approves NIS 4.2B Program to Open New School Year

A class room ready for students as they returned to school for the first time since the outbreak of the coronavirus in May. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

On Sunday, the government approved Education Minister Yoav Galant’s plan for opening the 2021-2022 school year – called “Learning Safely” – submitted in cooperation with Finance Minister Yisrael Katz and Health Minister Yuli Edelstein.

As part of the government approval and in accordance with the joint recommendation of the Ministries of Education, Finance, and Health, a budget increase of NIS 4.2 billion ($1,232,000,000) will be allocated for implementing the program to open the school year while dealing with coronavirus and high morbidity.

The plan was formulated by professionals in the Education Ministry, Finance Ministry, and local authorities, in coordination and conjunction with the Health Ministry, teachers’ unions, and parents’ organizations.

The vote was hailed by Galant, who said the approval “will enable a stable school year, even in the shadow of the coronavirus.”

The plan recommends opening the school year as usual on September 1, and integrates distance learning with in-person classes in groups of up to 18 students each. It also requires local authorities to begin preparing by recruiting additional staff members and preparing the logistics necessary for classes to be held.

Local authorities would be able to adapt the plan for their populations, in accordance with the Education Ministry’s approval.

Solutions will be provided for special populations such as youth villages, at-risk youth, special education, and others, regardless of the way the schools are generally run.

Schools will operate according to this plan throughout the year, or until a different decision is made. However, due to the complexity in splitting classes into two, children in preschool through second grade will not be able to switch to smaller classes, and will begin and end their studies according to the plan approved by the Health Ministry.

The grade-by-grade plan is as follows:

  • Preschools and kindergartens will not need to be split into smaller classes, and will continue as usual.
  • Grades 1-2 will not need to be split into smaller classes.
  • Grades 3-4 will learn full-time in the schools, in groups of up to 18 children, and will use the grade 5-6 classrooms as needed.
  • Grades 5-6 will integrate distance learning and frontal learning (at least two days per week), in groups of up to 18 students. Maximum effort will be made to ensure that these students are able to attend school in person for more than two days per week, and when possible and necessary they will occupy spaces and buildings near the school.
  • Grades 7-12 will integrate distance learning with at least two days of classroom learning per week, and will study in groups of up to 18 students.
  • Additional staff members will be recruited in order to allow grades 3-4 to be split into smaller groups, and to provide reinforcements for grades 5-6. Recruitment will search for new teachers, increase the hours offered to existing teachers, and add classroom assistants – unemployed persons appropriate for the task – and college and university students.

Hygiene rules will be followed, including among other things improved personal protective equipment (PPE) for staff members, the students sitting at separate tables two meters from each other, and groups of up to 18 students. Those over six years of age will wear face masks, hand sanitzation will be adhered to, as well as sterilization of the school itself.

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