Children in kindergarten through fourth grade will go to school five days a week, while older children will split their studies between home and school, under the latest plan for reopening schools September 1.
On Saturday afternoon Israel reported 1,021 new coronavirus cases since Friday night, and 1,493 new cases between Thursday and Friday. Israel now has more than 33,000 people currently ill with the coronavirus, out of 60,496 people diagnosed in total. Some 455 people have died so far, and another 312 people are in serious condition.
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Israel may see another 250-300 patients in serious condition this week, under a forecasting model developed by Prof. Eran Segal and Hagai Rossman of the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot.
The education and health ministries’ plan, designed to reduce the risk of the disease being spread in schools, has not yet been presented officially, but it was discussed during a meeting Thursday of the ministries’ directors general, Amit Edry and Chezy Levy, respectively, and Finance Ministry budget chief Shaul Meridor.
From kindergarten through second grade, classes will not be divided into smaller groups, but starting in the third grade, “capsules” or “learning pods” of up to 18 children will study together.
Fifth and sixth grades will come to school one or two days a week, depending on the number of classrooms available to accommodate the capsules, and study from home the rest of the week. Seventh to 12th grade will also be divided into capsules and will combine in-school and at-home learning. Special education and frameworks for at-risk children will operate as usual.
Sources involved in the discussions say the Health Ministry withdrew its demand for division into smaller groups for kindergarten through third grade in light of the low coronavirus infection rates of younger children. Such a demand would have made it necessary to hire tens of thousands of teachers.
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Last week Education Minister Yoav Gallant presented a different plan, involving small groups for kindergarten through 12th grade, at least in the beginning of the school year, and a slightly different balance between in-school and remote learning.
In a written response, the Israel Teachers Union said it does not comment on rumors and was waiting until it received the full plan from the Education Ministry.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced Thursday that summer school frameworks are set to continue according to their current format through August 6, up to the fourth grade. Day care for toddlers will continue through August 7.
Around 700,000 children are enrolled in the kindergarten through fourth grade summer school program, which is run by local governments in schools and kindergartens and subsidized. The day care program serves 130,000 children up to age 3.