Rude Awakening to School

New residents of a Rehovot neighborhood found that it's no good sending your kid to a nursery school near a building site

When residents of the Ahuzat Hanasi neighborhood in Rehovot moved into their new homes, they expected to find quality of life and preschools of a high standard. But in the past few weeks they have found themselves in a struggle to transfer their children elsewhere.

A building over 20 floors high is being put up next to the preschools' compound and the children are being exposed to noise and pollution. "We don't understand how the municipality gave them a license to build at a site that is next to nursery schools, without finding some kind of solution," says Itai Babnik, a member of the parents' committee.

Yesterday dozens of parents and their children held a demonstration against the racket at the construction site, where the tower is being put up by two real estate companies with the permission of the Rehovot municipality. The demonstrators were prevented from entering the building site by the construction workers, who said they were not the fair recipients of the parents' complaints.

"Some of the parents have transferred their children to other nursery schools, but there are others who find this difficult and there are parents whose children are in the municipal preschools who have been allocated to this area and have no other option," says Efrat Salomon, the mother of one of the children. "The children are in a state of distress and fear because they are frightened by the noise and machines."

Hammers and cranes

Work at the site began a few weeks ago and the pressure hammers and cranes continue to operate next to the schools from early morning until evening. The work is taking place next to a wall behind which sit which five preschools with around 150 children aged 2 to 6. Tests carried out by the Union of Local Authorities last month revealed that the children are exposed to noise levels far higher than what's permitted, too loud for the kids to use the playgrounds.

As a result, the companies involved in the construction work set up special walls to try to protect the children from the noise. Now the schools look like a fort.

"The municipality set up the preschools for the benefit of the neighborhood's residents in the locations allocated according to the plans," said Carmela Kuper, the municipal spokeswoman. "Following a request by the parents, the head of the engineering department in the municipality stopped the work until the claims are clarified."

She added that "last week a meeting was held at the site between the developers and parents and it was decided to take certain steps including restrictions on the developers' activities at the site, acoustic protection, and the submission of safety plans. Alternatives were worked out and they'll be presented to the parents at a meeting [this week]."

The developers said: "We are building according to a construction permit that was issued according to law, and on the basis of approved municipal plans. Since we are referring to children and we are aware of the parents' anxieties, we have turned to professional safety advisers to get instructions on whether to take additional steps. The safety advisers' recommendations will be presented next week to the city engineer and we'll act according to these recommendations."