While Classmates Enjoy LA School Trip, Many Children Left Behind, and Bored

Parents of students at a Tel Aviv school who did not join their classmates in an exchange program with Los Angeles Jewish schools told Haaretz there was not much point in sending the children to school during the two-week program, as regular studies are not being conducted.

More than 50 sixth-graders at Magen, in the northern Tel Aviv neighborhood of Maoz Aviv, who did not take part in the trip, watched movies, enjoyed leisure activities and were even dismissed early, parents said.

Education Ministry Director General Shimshon Shoshani decided to appoint a committee to examine the exchange program, adminstered by the Tel-Aviv-Los Angeles Partnership of the Jewish Federation, in the wake of complaints from parents.

The Magen group, which left for L.A. three days ago, comprised 24 students and three teachers.

Haaretz reported on Friday that parents of students at three schools participating in the exchange program had criticized it. Some said it created a distinction between those who could afford it and those who could not. The parents said the trip's high cost - about $1500 this year and $2000 in previous years - had turned participation into a status symbol.

Two Tel Aviv elementary schools - the School for Nature, Environment and Society and the A.D. Gordon School - decided to end their participation in the program, in which students from Tel Aviv Jewish schools in the Los Angeles area.

The usual 6th-grade schedule at Magen consists of 39 weekly hours. The schedule for the next two weeks, however, includes an hour for games, an hour for "planting in the schoolyard," the screening of two, two-hour movies, a visit to the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, an exchange with a school in Or Yehuda and a tour of a road safety instruction center, among other activities.

"We were told there would be no regular studies but that ...students would get worksheets and would review material they had studied already," one parent said.

Another parent said, "The school left it to us to engage the children."

He said that last year some parents organized trips for the children, "because how long can they sit in a classroom without doing anything?"