Gaza area schools Eliyahu Hershkovitz
Sandbags outside the preschool on Kibbutz Re’im. Photo by Eliyahu Hershkovitz
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Prolonged delays in reinforcing a kindergarten near the Gaza border against rocket fire will once again force children at Kibbutz Re'im to study in alternate locations when the school year begins next week.

Three years after the IDF Home Front Command began renovating the building at an estimated cost of NIS 200,000, the costs have exceeded NIS 3 million due to unforeseen structural problems.

In 2007, when kibbutz officials looked into reinforcing the kindergarten, "the Home Front Command told us it would cost NIS 200,000," said Noam Marek, a kibbutz member. "So we preferred that the work be done under its supervision. And the work began quickly."

But after construction began, officials began to notice problems. The kibbutz secretariat realized the work did not meet the Home Front Command's standards, and it complained to the on-site supervisor. It also sent letters of protest to the Home Front Command, but nothing was done.

"The beams of the reinforced building were completely cracked and eroded; there were cracks throughout the reinforced structure; the planning of the reinforcement was faulty," Marek said. "But when I notified the on-site inspector, he responded, 'You don't understand,' and they continued with their work as usual. After we complained to the Home Front Command, more than five inspectors came and went, but the construction didn't stop."

Marek's protests prompted the Home Front Command to summon outside engineers to check the reinforcement. The cost of these inspections totaled NIS 200,000, a large portion of which was paid to the Israel Standards Institute.

The ISI determined that the reinforcement had not been done properly and posed a danger to the kindergarten children. The Home Front Command thus began new renovations that cost an additional NIS 300,000 - over the objections of the kibbutz, which said the new work would not help, and the cracks would just continue to expand.

In 2008, kibbutz members alerted Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilnai to the delays in reinforcing the building. Vilnai then ordered that the kindergarten be razed and rebuilt, while another public building on the kibbutz would temporarily be converted into classrooms at a cost of close to NIS 1 million.

The building will be razed this coming Sunday, and a new reinforced structure will be constructed in its stead. The estimated cost of that project is NIS 1.5 million.