By Marcy Oster
JERUSALEM — Israel’s education minister made it clear: Rise in coronavirus cases or not, schools in the country will open on time.
“I say here to the citizens of the State of Israel, the school year will open on Sept. 1. Period,” Yoav Gallant said in an interview with Channel 12. “We have a plan, I sat for hours with the finance minister, he was convinced by things, he is cooperating on the matter. I found partners in the local authorities and the teachers’ unions.”
The plan will include some remote learning.
Since Israel reopened its economy and schools in late May, COVID-19 cases have been rising steadily. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has acknowledged that the country reopened too quickly.
Gallant said the education system is working to ensure that every child will be able to connect to distance learning, though he could not commit to being successful, in part due to the expense of providing equipment and infrastructure to schools and some students, and to train teachers.
“This is complex work, we are talking about 2.5 million students and teachers,” Gallant said.
Gallant said last week that Israeli elementary schools will open in the fall, but with no more than 18 students per class, and older students will learn at home all but one day a week.
During the interview, he criticized a graduation party held for over 100 students at the Gymnasia Rehavam high school in Jerusalem, where over 100 students were infected by the coronavirus in May after school reopened, forcing the student body and staff into isolation.
The party violated current regulations designed to control the coronavirus in Israel, which include gatherings of up to 10 people indoors and up to 20 outside.
Meanwhile, the Knesset coronavirus oversight committee voted Tuesday to keep restaurants open, despite a government order to keep them closed to prevent the spread of the virus.