Israel is preparing to fully reopen the education system starting on Sunday when private daycares, kindergartens and grades 1-3 will resume classroom activities full-time in most areas. This comes after over two months when Israeli children spent most of their time at home in a bid to contain the spread of the coronavirus in the country. Grades 1-3 and 11-12 previously resumed partial studies this past week.
On Monday and Tuesday, pupils in grades 4-12 are also set to return to school, and after-school programs, which stretch the school day to approximately 4:30-5 p.m. depending on local authorities, are expected to resume later in the week.
The plan approved on Thursday returns all students to educational frameworks except for areas that have been centers of outbreaks in the last two months, some of which have been under lockdown. Those areas are predominantly, but not exclusively, ultra-Orthodox cities, communities and neighborhoods.
According to the announcement, the return to school will be “on a voluntary basis and in accordance with the readiness of local authorities.”
Schools will enforce hygiene rules such as washing hands, and every pupil will have to present a document saying they are healthy upon arrival at school.
All pupils will be required to wear face masks during recess in open areas, and those in grades 4-12 will also wear them in class. Classroom windows will remain open at all times.
Pupils will also have to keep a two-meter distance from one another during lunch breaks, while schools and kindergartens are required to hold most of their activities in places that allow for the mandatory distance to be maintained.
Students will go for breaks between classes in smaller groups, not all at the same time.
The school year will run through July 13. It is not yet clear what the summer programs may look like.
The government said that any educational framework in which morbidity is discovered, will be shut immediately.
On Friday, officials said that a teacher at the Navon school in the central city of Rehovot had been diagnosed with coronavirus and found to have been in contact with 52 students and the school staff. All were sent into isolation. The school will be shut until May 27, the school’s principal informed parents.
The return to school is yet another step toward the full reopening of the economy as parents can return to work full-time. Last month, the Bank of Israel said that the shutdown of the education system, which went into effect mid-March, was costing the economy around NIS 2.6 billion per week.
Health Ministry data showed Saturday that the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Israel increased by 19 between Friday morning and Saturday evening, following more than a week of under 50 daily infections. One new death was recorded since Friday morning, bringing the nation’s toll to 268.
The total number of cases in Israel was 16,608. Of them, 12,855 have recovered from COVID-19, meaning the number of active cases was down to 3,485.
Of those ill with the virus, 59 were in serious condition, 49 of them on ventilators. Another 40 were in moderate condition with the rest displaying mild symptoms, the ministry said Saturday.
Amid the sustained drop in infections, the government has increasingly rolled back restrictions meant to curb the outbreak. More such measures are reportedly in the works.