Israel’s Confused School Reopening Policy Shakes Confidence in Education System

Israeli children in first to third grades will be able to go back to school on Sunday in groups of up to 15, but kindergartens and day care centers will remain closed, the Health Ministry said on Thursday.

The decision left parents and teachers confused, coming after a week of the Education Ministry telling parents that kindergartens would reopen on Sunday as well.

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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is expected to continue discussions on the matter on Friday. Sources say there is general agreement about the Health Ministry’s recommendation to let first- through third-graders return to school, but that the Health and Education Ministries are in disagreement about what to do with kindergartens.

Meanwhile, the Bnei Brak municipality said on Thursday it will not be opening its schools at this time. The city has a relatively high rate of coronavirus cases.

Likewise, the National Committee of Arab Mayors decided on Thursday not to reopen schools in their towns and cities next week citing concerns of seeing a spike in infections. They said they would look at reopening schools in about two weeks in areas where there are a negligible number of COVID-19 cases. The decision has the backing of local parents’ committees, which cited the Arab community’s 6-percent increase in virus cases in recent days, versus the 1.8 percent national average.

The Health Ministry recommended that children in first to third grades be split into groups of up to 15.

A ministry official said on Thursday: “From what we’ve seen, children are susceptible to the disease and are contagious like adults, perhaps a little less. So far some 3,000 Israeli children have fallen sick, about 1,000 of them through the age of nine and some 2,000 older than that.”