Israel's Education Ministry Considers Closing Schools on Some Fridays

Education Minister Shai Piron responds to parents’ anger over this year's two-day Lag Ba’omer school break with a promise to coordinate vacation times for pupils and their parents.

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Education Ministry officials are looking into the possibility of closing schools on some Fridays to make up for the shortened summer vacation and early starting date of the school year, August 27. High-ranking ministry officials said Sunday night that “We need to try to coordinate the pupils’ vacation days with those of their parents as much as possible.” However, the officials added that no plan to shorten the summer vacation or other school vacations during the school year has been discussed.

On Sunday, Education Ministry officials met to discuss the vacation days that had to be given back to the teachers because of the earlier start of the school year on August 27, which was instituted by the previous education minister, Gideon Sa’ar.

One idea that was brought up at the meeting was to cancel classes on some Fridays. High-ranking ministry officials said: “Since most of the country doesn’t work on Fridays, giving vacation days back to the teachers on those days won’t inconvenience the parents too much.” The officials also said that two teachers’ associations — the Teachers’ Union, which mostly represents primary-school teachers, and the Teachers’ Organization, which represents mainly high-school teachers — had not rejected the idea.

Many parents were angry over this year’s Lag Ba’omer vacation, which lasted two days as opposed to the usual single day. Over the weekend, Education Minister Shai Piron wrote on his Facebook page: “A two-day vacation for children, for no reason, is not right or appropriate. The vacation schedule should be coordinated, as much as possible, with the parents’ work days.” He added that it was not right to “leave the parents to deal on their own with two days off from school with no way out,” and that "before the next school year starts, I promise to do everything possible to reduce cases like this.”

One of the main problems in planning the school year and its vacations is the number of days off that teachers are to receive according to their contracts. For this reason, there is not much room to maneuver in planning the school year. If the idea of cancelling classes on several Fridays is put into practice, it may be expanded to the point of restructuring the school year as a whole.

Shai Piron, Israel's Education Minister.Credit: Shiran Granot

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