Government Split on School Re-Openings

Minister of Education Yoav Galant, outgoing Education Ministry Director-General Shmuel Abuav and Incoming Education Ministry Director-General Amit Edri at a ceremony for replacing a Director-General of the Education Ministry, . Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90 

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu‏‏ and Education Minister Yoav Gallant have said that public schools for all grades will open on September 1 as scheduled, The Jerusalem Post reported on Monday.
The announcement contradicted a statement made by coronavirus project manager Prof. Ronni Gamzu, who said on Sunday night that children above the fourth grade might not have classes due to coronavirus concerns.

“The school year will open as planned and according to the outline formulated by Education Minister Yoav Gallant,” PM Netanyahu said Monday in a closed part of the Likud faction meeting.

Gallant told a Knesset committee that “whoever says differently causes panic,” an apparent reference to Gamzu.

Education Ministry director-general Amit Edry added that his ministry is working together with the local authorities, “with full vigor and intensity, so that the gates of the educational institutions will open September 1.”

However, the opening Gallant outlined did not provide full, in-person instruction for all grades.

Children will go to school in-person and/or learn from home depending on their age. Students in preschool will have a full, six-day school week without restrictions.

Grades 1 and 2 will learn five days per week and with their normal classroom sizes.

Third and fourth graders will also study five days per week, but in groups of 18 or fewer students and with each student sitting at a separate table.

In contrast, fifth- and sixth-grade students will learn partially from school and partially via remote learning. Students will be expected to be in their classrooms twice a week, in capsules of no more than 18 students. The other three days they will be at home.

Special education students and at-risk youth will meet even when other educational institutions are closed.

Commenting on Gallant’s plan, Health Ministry director-general Chezy Levy told Ynet that “there is no decision yet. We hope we can open preschools and grades one through three.”

Another discordant note was sounded by Teachers’ Union head Yaffa Ben-David, who accused the Education Ministry of “having fallen asleep.”

“How did anyone think that in a class of 35 children, it is possible to keep [a distance of] two meters (six feet)? It isn’t applicable,” she said. “The parents are lying when they state that they have checked their children’s temperatures.”

Ben-David said, “There are three things that, if we do not receive them from the Finance Ministry by the start of the school year, I will declare a labor dispute: pension, sick days and a solution for teachers at risk.”