As Coronavirus Subsides, Israel's School System Fully Reopens

Informal education, after-school classes and higher education continue operating with the existing COVID-19 limitations for the time being

Or Kashti
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A school in Jerusalem last month, after COVID-19 restrictions were lifted
A school in Jerusalem last month, after COVID-19 restrictions were lifted Credit: Emil Salman
Or Kashti

Israel’s school system, from preschool through 12th grade, will fully reopen on Sunday after 13 months of disruptions due to the coronavirus pandemic. Classes will no longer be divided into smaller groups.

Under a plan drafted by the Health Ministry and approved by the cabinet last week, if a student is found to be infected with the coronavirus, all other children and teachers in the grade will be tested, and will be permitted to return only after they receive a negative test result.

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Even though children 16 and under are not yet eligible to be vaccinated, infection rates among children are dropping along with those of the population as a whole.

“For the past two weeks infection statistics have been stable and 95 percent of the country is ‘green,’ and infection rates among children are low, so at this point we can advance to opening the education system more fully while instituting broad testing in places where infection figures increase,” stated the Health Ministry.

Informal education, after-school classes and higher education will continue operating with the existing limitations for the time being.

Until now, many grades had been split into two sections, termed “capsules,” in order to slow potential infections. This prevented the education system from fully reopening because the capsules necessitated extra space and teaching hours, and sometimes extra bussing times.

The new regulations also remove the restrictions on how many groups of children teachers can teach.

Children will still be required to wear masks indoors, classrooms will need to be ventilated and children are still being instructed to keep their distance from one another.

Schools are being given up until next Sunday to resume full operations.

Under the plan published Friday, principals of middle and high schools (grades 7 through 12) will be permitted “flexibility” in order to address emotional, social and academic disparities. This includes one-on-one or group instruction inside or off school grounds, including distance learning for up to 20 percent of all weekly instruction hours. However, given that the curriculum is not being updated accordingly, it’s not clear how much impact this will have. Elementary schools are not being permitted similar flexibility.

On Friday, Haaretz Hebrew edition reported on a study by the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya that found that one in five children in Israel has signs of anxiety and 50 percent need emotional support due to the coronavirus crisis. The study, conducted in March among a representative sample of some 1,000 parents of children aged 6-18, is based on detailed questionnaires submitted by the parents. The researchers found that the lower the parents’ income, the greater the children’s emotional distress.

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