The cabinet approved on Sunday a NIS 4.2 billion ($1.2 billion) plan to open and run the coming school year under the constraints of the ongoing coronavirus outbreak.
The plan, called Learning in Safety, which was hammered out by the education, finance, and health ministries, calls for daycare centers, kindergartens and the youngest grades to have a full regular program while older grades will be split into “capsules” of up to 18 students, and spend some of their time distance learning.
Education Minister Yoav Gallant hailed the approval and tweeted that it “will enable a stable school year, even in the shadow of the coronavirus.”
Channel 13 reported last week that NIS 2.6 billion ($762 million) will go toward boosting staff to enable classes to be split into smaller capsules as necessary. A further NIS 1.2 billion ($351 million) will be used to improve the distance learning infrastructure that forms a key part of the plan for older grades. Gallant has previously said the ministry is striving to ensure that every student in the country has access to distance learning, which is not currently the case.
The rest of the budget package will be for hygiene and protective equipment, support programs for weaker sectors of the population, and information services, the Channel 13 report said.
Under the plan, kindergartens and grades 1-2 will operate with normal group sizes and not under the so-called “capsule system” of fixed small groups.
Students in grades 3-4 will learn in capsules capped at 18 students to keep numbers below Health Ministry limits. Grades 5-12 will study via distance learning for most of the week and only attend classes, limited in size to 18, twice a week.
The school year is scheduled to open on September 1.
Schools were closed in mid-March to stem the spread of the virus, but almost all classes were okayed to return by the second week of May in a move that some policy experts have blamed for the resurgence of the virus in recent weeks. The government eventually clamped down on high school classes at the end of the school year, but has taken few steps to close or limit schools since then.