Coronavirus: Grades 5-10 to attend schools during lockdown after all

Coronavirus: Grades 5-10 to attend schools during lockdown after all

As Israel prepares to lock down for a third time on Sunday at 5 p.m., the Education Committee decided in the early afternoon to allow children from grades 5-10 to continue their in-person learning. Ram Shefa, head of the Knesset Education Committee, pushed for this change, since these grades were originally planned to go into full-time remote learning in the third lockdown. They currently learn through a combination of in-persona and remote learning. In a Tweet he posted on Saturday night, he said, “I will not allow Netanyahu’s campaign considerations to harm the children of Israel. Fifth to tenth graders are neglected and must not be held hostage to arbitrary and destructive decisions. Tomorrow in the Education Committee I will stop the default and make sure they get back to school soon.”The issue of school closings is perhaps the most contentious one in the current lockdown proposal.Originally, the proposal was for preschools and grades 1-4 and 11-12 to stay open but only study from 8 a.m. until 1 p.m., while children in other grades would stay home. The rationale was that there is no reason to keep young children at home, since their rate of infection is extremely low, while those in the last two years of high school have to prepare for their matriculation exams.Thursday afternoon, after a great deal of protest on the part of parents, municipal authorities and medical experts, the government changed its mind and decided that those going to school could remain there for regular days. And pressure of over the weekend has pushed back the original education proposal even further. In the new plan, preschools and kindergartens will operate as usual, as will the younger grades. The high schoolers will be broken into capsules and allowed to interact with up to three capsules; teachers will be able to instruct up to four capsules.

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Some parents had called for Zoom classes on Sunday to be cancelled in protest when it seemed that grades 5-10 would be home full-time during the third lockdown. The National Parents Organization said in a statement, prior to the reversal of the decision, “We will not allow the members of the cabinet to continue abusing our children.”Many medical experts outside the Health Ministry had questioned the wisdom of closing the schools during the third lockdown. Dr. Alexander Gileles-Hillel, a pediatrician who specializes in pulmonology at Hadassah-University Medical Center in Jerusalem told the Jerusalem Post when the third lockdown rules were first proposed last week, “In areas that are green, there is no reason at all to close the schools.”Gezer Regional Council head Rotem Yadlin spoke at the Education Committee meeting on Sunday and called for the entire education system to remain open, saying, “this health crisis is not just corona, it is the mental crisis that affects girls and boys across the country. And someone needs to understand the size of the fracture that will stay with us even after the corona is gone.”Ninth graders have been in school for a total of six days since the second closure,” she said. “They are home alone most of the day, in front of the computer, and we see a dramatic increase in suicides, obesity, addictions and depression among teens.”Children need a teacher who will look them in the eye, who will recognize the distress before it develops,” Yadlin said. “We cannot continue to turn a blind eye to them.”She said that an effective solution that had been proposed was a return to the traffic-light plan, with different rules for parts of the country according to morbidity rates. “This encourages the authorities to reduce morbidity – and at the same time, the teaching staff should be vaccinated and return to school.”During the debate on Thursday, the head of the Teachers Union, Yaffa Ben David, said that teaching staff should be vaccinated as quickly as possible. She posted on her Facebook page: “Our requirement is basic – working conditions that provide protection for the health of educational staff. It is unthinkable that the teaching workers who are on the frontline will not be vaccinated. If this situation continues, we will take all measures to require the country to protect them.״Health Minister Yuli Edelstein announced Saturday night that he had instructed the director general of his ministry, Prof. Chezy Levy, to facilitate the vaccination of teaching staff.

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