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Education Minister vows to open schools on Sep. 1, but says it won’t go smoothly

Yoav Gallant announces details of studies plan, acknowledges ‘there will be difficulties’; declares large investment in remote learning

Education Minister Yoav Gallant holds a press conference in Tel Aviv, August 6, 2020. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)
Education Minister Yoav Gallant holds a press conference in Tel Aviv, August 6, 2020. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

Officially launching his plan for the coming school year under the constraints of the coronavirus, Education Minister Yoav Gallant promised on Thursday to open schools on September 1, while acknowledging that the year would likely have a rocky start.

“We’ll be ready on September 1,” Gallant said at a press conference. “The time to prepare is short, and mission is very complex. The opening of the school year will be filled with difficulties. We’ll face every difficulty.

“It won’t be perfect. We can’t provide full studies for everyone. Not all protection measures will reach every place, and not everything will arrive on the first day of school,” Gallant said.

But he said he sought to provide students as smooth a start to the school year as possible.

“Difficulties should be left for the adults,” he said, adding that his ministry would act with full transparency toward the public.

The cabinet on Sunday approved an NIS 4.2 billion ($1.2 billion) school plan, called Learning in Safety, which was put together by the education, finance, and health ministries.

It will see kids in kindergarten to grade 2 attend full regular studies; grades 3-4 will be split into “capsules” of up to 18 students; and grades 5-12, also in capsules, will have two days of in-class studies a week, and the rest will be held remotely.

Gallant said there may be differential, city-specific aspects to the plan according to need.

Schoolchildren wear face masks to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus in Tel Aviv, July 6, 2020. (AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner)

He said NIS 1.2 billion ($351 million) will be dedicated to improving remote studies infrastructure, including tens of thousands of laptop computers and kosher phones for the ultra-Orthodox public.

In addition, 13,000 new teacher and teacher’s aide positions will be added to the school system, while teachers will be trained on how to best make use of remote studies platforms.

The rest of the budget package will be for hygiene and protective equipment, support programs for disadvantaged groups and information services. Schools will have temperature checks at their gates, increased regular cleaning and hand sanitizer stations in every classroom.

Students and teachers wear protective face masks as they return to school, at Hashalom School in Mevaseret Zion, near Jerusalem, May 17, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The plan will be in force for the entire school year, barring an effective vaccine or the need for a new national lockdown, Gallant said. He said he hoped that at least 50 percent of the measures to upgrade remote studies would be completed by January.

Schools were closed in mid-March to stem the spread of the virus, but almost all classes were allowed to return by the second week of May in a move that some policy experts said contributed to 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 educational programs since then.

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