Israel’s students returned to schools Thursday morning after the lengthy September holiday period, starting the academic year in earnest as the month comes to an end.
Students under 12 (and those over 12 who have not been vaccinated) will need to present a negative coronavirus test, from either a testing center or a home testing kit. Students and teachers without a vaccination/recovery certificate or a negative test will not be allowed on school premises.
As of Wednesday evening, only 81 percent of parents of eligible children had collected their free home testing kits.
While some 2 million are heading back to schools, around 100,000 students are in quarantine due to exposure to virus carriers.
As of now, any COVID-19 case in a classroom will force all classmates into quarantine. Next week a pilot program in 300 classrooms will see students in such classes continue coming to school while getting daily tests for a week.
The Education Ministry is also considering providing each student with multiple home tests to allow parents to screen their children at home on a regular basis.
The ministry fears many parents won’t send their children to school in the coming days lest they end up needing to quarantine and thus cause their parents to lose workdays.
Wednesday saw government-supervised daycares open after the Sukkot holidays, but with a delay of several hours as caregivers protested severe staffing shortages and poor pay.
From Sunday, more than one million Israelis will lose their Green Pass after a policy change dictated that a COVID-19 booster shot is required six months after receiving the first two doses.
Among them are almost half the country’s teachers, according to an estimate from the Israel Teachers’ Union.
The director of the secondary school teachers’ union, Ran Erez, sent an urgent letter to Prime Minister Naftali Bennett urging a two-month delay to allow teachers to get their booster shots and become Green Pass-compliant, warning that the decision to dock pay for those without the pass — and who refuse to be tested — would be challenged in court.
“There are no decisions like this directed at any other sector in the country. It is a measure that harms Israeli teachers in a nonproportional way,” he wrote.