Education Ministry wants to keep schools open through summer

As educational system fully reopens, top official says plan drafted to extend school year for students through 11th grade, teachers on board

Israeli students wearing face masks return to school in Tel Aviv on April 18, 2021. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)
Israeli students wearing face masks return to school in Tel Aviv on April 18, 2021. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

The Education Ministry plans to extend the school year through the summer months to overcome educational gaps that widened during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Education Ministry Director-General Amit Edri told the Kan public broadcaster on Sunday that a proposal to keep the education system running through the summer has been drafted, but not yet funded or approved by the government.

He said teachers were on board with the plan, which would apply to all students through 11th grade.

Edri’s comments came as Israel fully reopened its school system after a year of mostly remote learning. Israel’s three nationwide lockdowns since March 2020 kept schools shuttered for months.

Israeli students return to school in Tel Aviv on April 18, 2021. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

All students from daycare to 12th grade returned to regular in-person classes on Sunday, ending the requirement that some children still learn in smaller class sizes.

Children in grades 5-9 had been the only remaining students required to study in socially distanced “capsules” or pods. Students will still be required to wear masks indoors, but will be allowed to take them off during gym class, when they eat, and in between classes.

Last week, the Education Ministry reported a 30 percent drop in first- to third-graders’ language and reading skills over the past year and a 25% decline in math and language skills among students in grades 4-6. A ministry official quoted by Haaretz said the figures underlined the need to swiftly reopen all schools to identify learning, social, and emotional gaps.

After suffering a severe third wave of the pandemic, Israel’s situation has rapidly improved in recent months, as it has carried out one of the world’s fastest per-capita vaccination drive. Over half of the population is fully inoculated against COVID-19, and the results have been evident, with the number of daily new cases and serious cases dropping to levels not seen in months.

As the caseload has dropped, Israel has gradually rolled back coronavirus restrictions by opening businesses, event venues and other activities. National virus czar Nachman Asch has said that the entire economy will be able to fully reopen next month if there is no new rise in contagion.

Israel on Sunday also dropped its mandate to wear masks outdoors.

The Health Ministry has predicted that vaccination for 12- to 15-year-olds will begin next month.

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