Children in Israeli preschools and elementary schools will have five fewer vacation days this year. Starting next year, the school year will run a total of 10 days longer, trimming the lengthy vacation that has been a major source of complaints from working parents, according to a plan presented Monday by Education Minister Naftali Bennett and Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon.
The program is slated to begin in the spring, cutting five days of vacation before Passover, on March 25-29, so that school will continue until the day before the festival, which this year begins on the evening of March 30, the ministers announced at a press conference.
The plan only applies to students in kindergarten (from age 3) through third grade, ages when parents must leave work to watch their children while schools are closed. Starting next year, the school year will be a total of about 10 days longer, with schools adding more days during Hanukkah.
The program is expected to affect about a million children and will cost NIS 400 million ($116 million) per year.
Children who go to school during the extra days will not be greeted by the same staff as the rest of the year, the ministry has said, in order to avoid delays in implementation due to labor contracts and union resistance. Instead, classrooms and programs will be staffed by contract workers, and will run from 7:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.
“Parents will no longer have to choose between earning a living and their children,” Bennett said at the press conference.
Part of the funding for the new school days will come from parents, with fees depending on average income in each municipality. Wealthier municipalities will charge NIS 30 ($8.50) per child per day, or roughly NIS 330 annually for each child, middle-earning municipalities will charge NIS 20 per child per day, and poorer municipalities will offer the extra days for free.
In school districts where schools offer private daycare during vacation days, the existing programs will mostly continue as before, but with parents receiving the service for free or for a dramatically reduced rate.