Education Ministry issues details of plan to return grades 7-10 to classroom

Students to be in school at least 2 days a week in low- to medium-infection areas; remote learning continues in higher rate towns; outdoor activities in set groups allowed for all

File: Students arrive at school in Ashdod, November 29, 2020 (Flash90)
File: Students arrive at school in Ashdod, November 29, 2020 (Flash90)

The Education Ministry on Tuesday publicized its proposal for students in grades 7-10 to return to the classroom in low- to medium-infected areas on Sunday.

Students in those grades are the last to remain at home, studying remotely, under the pandemic restrictions.

According to the plan, students will be divided into set groups of up to 20 and will be in the classroom for at least two days a week.

Schools will be open six days a week to facilitate the system and teachers will be permitted to rotate between up to four groups, while students will be allowed to move between two groups.

Illustrative: Israeli students arrive at a high school in the southern Israeli city of Ashdod, November 29, 2020. (Flash90)

In higher infection areas students will continue with remote learning in all grades.

In all areas, including high-infection ones, schools will be allowed to hold open-air activities in set groups of up to 20 participants, including staff members, and outdoor daytrips will also be permitted under the same restrictions.

Furthermore, special education will return to full operation in low- to medium-infection areas.

Students will return to the classroom as part of the next stage of the government’s lockdown exit plan which also includes reopening restaurants and cafes, permitting hotels and event venues to open in accordance with Health Ministry guidelines, and easing limitations on gatherings.

A mother and daughter arrive at school in the costal city of Ashkelon, Israel, Feb. 11, 2021 (AP Photo/Tsafrir Abayov)

Last month, grades 5-6 and 11-12 were permitted to resume in-person classes in low-infection cities or medium-infected ones with high rates of vaccination. Kindergartens and grades 1-4 have previously opened in cities designated as low-infection “green” and “yellow” and “light orange” in the government’s color-coding system for morbidity rates.

Chezy Levy, director-general of the Health Ministry, said last week that the ministry was not necessarily supportive of the plan to reopen more classes in the coming days.

“There are talks between the Education and Health Ministries. I am not reconciled to this plan… In general, we support the reopening of schools and giving priority to getting children out of the house, but we said we need some more time,” Levy said.

Schools have been largely shuttered in Israel for much of the past year, leading to frequent protests by parents and children.

Fifth-grade students return to school in Efrat, February 21, 2021. (Gershon Elinson/ Flash90)

The loosening of rules came amid a decline in morbidity, particularly among high-risk groups, which is largely being credited to Israel’s rapid vaccination campaign.

The vaccine has not yet been approved for children under 16, although Israel has vaccinated dozens who suffer specific COVID-19 risk factors. No serious side effects have been reported.

Infection rates among children and school reopenings are a central concern as Israel steps out of its third wave virus outbreak. Children represent a larger proportion of infections than earlier in the pandemic, presumably due to new virus variants and the fact that a significant share of adults have been vaccinated.

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