Despite Teachers' Strike, Classes to Resume in Sderot

The Secondary-School Teachers' Association (SSTT) announced yesterday that high-school and middle-school classes in Sderot and other communities near Gaza would resume today, despite the open-ended strike that began yesterday.

The strike, a result of a wage dispute between the teachers and the finance and education ministries, began in the Jewish school system and will begin in the Arab schools next Wednesday. The association says it could last for months.

SSTT chair Ran Erez met a senior Education Ministry official last night in an effort to reach a solution to the crisis, but the differences between the sides remained acute.

Earlier yesterday, the Knesset Education Committee and MK Zevulun Orlev (National Religious Party) called on the teachers' union to end the strike in the communities near the Gaza Strip border. The Education Ministry also asked to cancel the strike in boarding schools, but the SSTT is expected to refuse the ministry's request.

The strike was canceled in the communities near Gaza due to the security threat to youngsters outside reinforced buildings. Palestinian militants fire rockets into these areas on a daily basis, posing a threat to children roaming the streets.

The strike included some 1,200 high schools and some 300 middle schools yesterday.

The Education Ministry said that about half the middle-school classes operated as usual.

"The ministry is trying to create the impression that it can deal with a long strike," an SSTT source said. "But even in the schools that were open, SSTT members did not come to work and the studies were severely disrupted."

At this stage, the Education Ministry is not planning to ask the court for back-to-work orders for the striking teachers. "We've decided to wait a day or two to see how the strike develops and decide on our steps at the beginning of next week," Education Minister Yuli Tamir said.

"In principle we've decided not to break the strike," she said.

The ministry is examining the possibility of holding activities for the pupils in community centers. Tamir is to meet local authority heads to discuss the preparations for a prolonged strike.