Bnei Brak, which had been listed as an “orange” city under current coronavirus regulations, as part of the traffic light plan, was added to the Health Ministry’s list of “yellow” cities on Friday.
The city saw an additional 413 coronavirus infections last week compared to 4,180 new infections in the previous week.
On Thursday, the mayors of Bnei Brak, Rabbi Avraham Rubinstein, and of Tel Aviv, Ron Huldai, released a joint plan to get students back into schools immediately and without any budget increase, which they outlined in a letter sent to Health Minister Yuli Edelstein and Education Minister Yoav Galant.
Copies of the letter were also sent to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and many officials, including coronavirus commissioner Prof. Ronni Gamzu.
The mayors wrote that their proposal meets the Health Ministry requirements by focusing on a limited number of subjects, relying on existing curriculum, cutting out Friday studies and using outdoor and extracurricular spaces, such as gyms and auditoriums, to teach classes.
“In our experience, since the crisis broke out, distance from schools and the transition to distance learning have caused social and emotional damage to students,” they write.
The plan will make possible an “immediate and safe return to schools.” Unlike the Education Ministry plan presented earlier this week, in response to directives of the Health Ministry, the plan does not call for the hiring of additional teachers. Rather, it reads like a combination of many previously proposed plans, with capsules of 17-22 pupils for first to sixth grades and classes to be held in shifts. For students in seventh to 12th grades, there will be a combination of distance learning and studying in person in outdoor and extracurricular spaces.
It also includes a provision for testing all staff members for the coronavirus.
While the Education Ministry said it would require five weeks to implement its plan, the mayors say they can get children back into schools right away. Another key difference is that the mayors say they can implement their plan without any additional budget, while the Education Ministry plan called for over NIS 7 billion, most of which would be spent on additional staff.
Rabbi Rubinstein wrote that the situation of Bnei Brak students is particularly dire, since they tend to be part of large families and live in small apartments, often without access to the kind of technology that can make remote learning a success. “Remember that distance learning opportunities for Bnei Brak children are extremely limited, which increases the need for a solution that will make possible a safe return to educational institutions,” wrote Rabbi Rubinstein.