Israel Has Yet to Decide When School Year Will End Amid Feud With Teacher's Union

Under normal circumstances, school would be set to end in less than a week, but battles wage on over the extension of studies after the coronavirus lockdown

Shira Kadari-Ovadia
Shira Kadari-Ovadia
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Students study while wearing face masks at Ziv High School in Jerusalem, June 4, 2020
Students study while wearing face masks at Ziv High School in Jerusalem, June 4, 2020Credit: Emil Salman
Shira Kadari-Ovadia
Shira Kadari-Ovadia

Less than a week before the school year was originally supposed to end, it’s still not clear when the last day will be, as the Education Ministry and the Teachers' Unions continue to fight over the issue.

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The Teachers' Union is threatening that if 10th grade teachers belonging to another union, the Secondary School Teachers' Association, don’t agree to extend the school year, it will retract its agreement to do so. In that case, all middle and high school classes taught by its members would end at the end of this week, while elementary schools would close on June 30.

In early April, the Finance Ministry and the Teachers' Union secretary general, Yaffa Ben David signed an agreement under which elementary and middle schools would stay open for an extra nine days to replace days on which there was no distance learning during the coronavirus lockdown. The agreement also required 10th grade teachers belonging to this union to teach the additional nine days.

But the Secondary School Teachers' Association never signed a similar agreement, and has told its members that the school year would end on June 20 as usual. The association’s chairman, Ran Erez, said last month that he refused to extend the school year because his teachers had conducted distance learning throughout the coronavirus lockdown, whereas Teachers' Union members didn’t conduct distance learning during its initial days.

Erez reached a verbal agreement with the Education Ministry that 11th  and 12th grade teachers will continue preparing their students for the matriculation exams until they start. But since 10th graders don’t take the exams, he saw no reason to extend their school year.

In a letter to her union’s members on Thursday, Ben David warned, “There will not be a situation in which you work more than other teachers who aren’t preparing for the matriculation exams.”

The Education Ministry is trying to reach an agreement with Erez’s union about 10th grade teachers to ensure that the deal with Ben David’s union is honored. But so far, less than a week before June 20, no such agreement has been reached.

The Knesset Education Committee is slated to discuss this issue on Monday.

For now, the teachers’ portal on the Education Ministry’s website has no information on when the school year will end.

“In general, the academic year for high schools starts on September 1 (if it isn’t a Saturday) and ends on June 20,” the site says. “The exact vacation dates for the current academic year for your children are detailed in the vacation calendar on this page.” But no such calendar actually appears on the website.

“School principals have been seeking answers about the end of the school year for more than a month already,” wrote Yael Ayalon, the principal of Tel Aviv’s Ironi Yud Dalet High School, on her Facebook page.

“I thought we could plan the end of the year peacefully,” a kindergarten teacher wrote on her Facebook page. “When will there be an answer about a definite end date? Why is it necessary to wait until the last minute?”

Another uncertainty is how students quarantined due to contact with coronavirus patients will take the matriculation exams. The first, in chemistry, will take place next Monday, but the Education Ministry still hasn’t published a policy regarding students in quarantine or which schools have been closed due to coronavirus cases occuring there.

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