Israel to Keep Schools Closed Until at Least Thursday as COVID Numbers Remain High

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Students walk home from their school in Givatayim, 2021.
Students walk home from their school in Givatayim, 2021. Credit: Hadas Parush

The country's schools will remain closed until at least Thursday, following a Monday meeting on the matter by the coronavirus cabinet. The cabinet is expected to convene again on Tuesday to further discuss reopening schools.

In the proposed outline for the return to school, kindergartens and grades 1-4 and 11-12 will open in yellow and green (low-infection) locales. In orange and red (high-infection) places, schools, including kindergartens, will operate in capsules, with half the class coming to school every other day and classes being held outdoors only. Students in grades 5-10 will continue remote learning everywhere. But the plan raises several questions.

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How will early childhood programs operate?

This was not discussed at the Saturday night meeting. Operators of supervised day care centers (Emuna, WIZO and Na’amat) said Monday that division into capsules and outdoor activity isn’t possible for this age group. “The ministers are welcome to try and put toddlers down for an afternoon nap outdoors and explain to parents how to arrange their work schedules and for which part of the week,” they said. Sources say the Health Ministry won’t insist on such a division in early childhood programs, and later they will be able to return to full operation even in high infection areas.

How will outdoor classes work?

It’s unclear how many hours a day students will be outdoors and if this will be for lessons or just brief social gatherings.

Will school transportation increase?

Regional schools rely on school bus services. At the end of the previous lockdown, at the end of October, third-graders and up returned to school in small groups, but the separation between groups was not maintained on school buses because no additional budget was allocated. Apparently this will also be the case this time.

How will the capsules work in the orange and red cities?

The Health Ministry insisted that in orange and red cities, kindergartens and grades 1-2 will also be divided into small groups, which was not the case before. Last year “teaching support staff” were hired for grades 3-4 to facilitate learning in small groups throughout the week, but this has not been done for the younger grades so they will have to attend school only half of the week. Local councils have asked the Education Ministry to permit them to construct the school schedule themselves and decide how to use the available manpower in the optimal way.

How will the division into colors be determined?

The division is determined by the school’s location, not by where the students and staff live. Thus, staffers who live in red neighborhoods or cities could come to teach at schools in cities with a low infection rate.

Will school resume for grades 5-10?

The Health Ministry opposes the resumption of school for these grades, even partially. For now, these students are expected to stay home even after the lower and higher grades return to school.

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