Education Minister Promises to Open Schools on Sept. 1

YERUSHALAYIM -
A class room ready for the return of students, on May 3, in Yerushalayim. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90 )

Officially launching his plan for the new school year under the constraints of the coronavirus restrictions, Education Minister Yoav Galant promised Thursday to open schools on September 1, while acknowledging that the school year would likely have a rocky start.

“We’ll be ready on September 1,” Galant said at a press conference. “The time to prepare is short, and mission ahead of us is very complex. The opening of the school year will be filled with difficulties. We’ll face every difficulty.

“It won’t be perfect,” he said, noting that “we can’t provide full studies for everyone. Not all protection measures will reach every place, and not everything will arrive on the first day of school.

But he said he sought to provide students as smooth a start to the school year as possible. “Difficulties should be left for the adults,” he said, adding that his ministry would act with full transparency toward the public.

The cabinet on Sunday approved an NIS 4.2 billion ($1.2 billion) school plan, called Learning in Safety, which was put together by the education, finance, and health ministries.

It will see kids in kindergarten to grade 2 attend full regular studies; grades 3-4 will be split into “capsules” of up to 18 students; and grades 5-12, also in capsules, will have two days of in-class studies a week, and the rest will be held remotely.

Gallant said there may be differential, city-specific aspects to the plan according to need.

He said NIS 1.2 billion ($351 million) will be dedicated to improving remote studies infrastructure, including tens of thousands of laptop computers and kosher phones for the chareidi public.

In addition, 13,000 new teacher and teacher’s aide positions will be added to the school system, while teachers will be trained on how to best make use of remote studies platforms.

The rest of the budget package will be for hygiene and protective equipment, support programs for disadvantaged groups and information services. Schools will have temperature checks at their gates, increased regular cleaning and hand sanitizer stations in every classroom.

The plan will be in force for the entire school year, barring an effective vaccine or the need for a new national lockdown, Galant said. He said he hoped that at least 50% of the measures to upgrade remote studies would be completed by January.