As Israeli Schools Reopen After COVID Lockdown, 80 Percent of Students Stay at Home

Only 20 percent of Israeli students are expected to return to school on Thursday, according to the Education Ministry. These are preschoolers and children in grades 1-4 in areas where schools can be opened. This means that 1.9 million children will continue with remote learning until the next update on easing restrictions in 10 days. For now, students in grades 11 and 12 are only due to return to school in the second stage of reopening, two weeks from now.

The coronavirus cabinet met on Tuesday evening and approved a gradual return to school, and preschools and elementary schools were informed of the outline on Wednesday afternoon. Several local authorities complained about conflicting instructions from the health and education ministries, which make it difficult to give parents clear information about if and when their children will go back to school.

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Some of the organizations that run day care centers said they would be unable to get ready in time, in part due to the need to bring assistant teachers back from unpaid leave.

One official in a big city in central Israel said, “Every city has a bunch of different traffic light plans – from the Home Front Command, and the Health Ministry and Education Ministry. Each one has a different traffic light outline, and divides the neighborhoods differently, and each one insists that they are the one who decides. The result is total chaos. There’s no synchronization among the government ministries, and the ones who pay the price are the parents, principals and the local authorities.”

According to the outline published by the Education Ministry, school will resume on Thursday in “green” and “yellow” localities, and also in “orange” communities that have received exemptions for in-person learning, for preschools and grades 1-4. Preschools will operate 6 days a week on a regular schedule and preschool afternoon programs will operate 5 days a week, in set groups with set staff.

School in these locales will resume as per the formula that was in use prior to the third lockdown: Preschoolers and first and second graders will learn together with the whole class while third and fourth graders will be divided into two capsules of no more than 20 students. Teachers in the lower grades will be able to move between three groups of students at most, and in grades 3 and 4, between four groups of students.