Online learning for elementary and middle school students will cease on Thursday, just five days after it began amid the coronavirus outbreak that has shuttered schools across the country.
The Israel Teachers’ Union reached an agreement with the Finance Ministry on Wednesday evening, which will see 180,000 teachers be given paid vacation time through the end of the Passover holiday in April.
In exchange, the union agreed to cut the fall holiday vacation break from 14 days to 10 days. In addition, the summer vacation will be shortened by nine days and the day off given for the Lag B’Omer holiday in May will also be rescinded. If the coronavirus guidelines requiring schools to remain closed are extended beyond the Lag B’Omer holiday, the fall holiday vacation will be cut by an additional two days.
Beginning Thursday, elementary and middle school teachers will be allowed to continue online lessons on a voluntary basis. On Sunday when the remote learning began, teachers had been told to teach the lessons, even though they were placed on unpaid leave.
Since the start of the remote lessons, parents across the country have reported the education system was not sufficiently prepared to implement online learning on such a large scale. The website used by the Education Ministry to administer courses has frequently crashed or been reported to take a long time to load.
The Wednesday agreement does not cover high schools where teachers have been instructed to continue online remote learning until a deal is reached between their union representative and the Finance Ministry.
A separate agreement reached by the Council for Higher Education and the Finance Ministry will see the spring college semester extended into the summer vacation period in order to make up for time lost due to the pandemic. Online courses for university students will continue as planned.
Education Ministry officials believe that with the conclusion of the coronavirus crisis, they will see significant budget cuts that will likely be reflected in teacher pay-cuts and layoffs, The Marker business daily reported.
All schools across the country have been canceled since last Thursday when the Health Ministry instituted new guidelines barring more than 100 people from congregating in enclosed spaces.