Haredi school year opens amidst coronavirus concerns

Written by on August 24, 2020

The Education Ministry has also laid out a closure and reopening plan in case of an increase in coronavirus infections, and it will continue to monitor the amount of patients in each school.

By OMRI RON
 

AUGUST 24, 2020 10:04

A HAREDI child reads from the Bible during a reading class at the Kehilot Ya’acov Torah School for boys in Jerusalem in 2010 (photo credit: RONEN ZVULUN / REUTERS)

A HAREDI child reads from the Bible during a reading class at the Kehilot Ya’acov Torah School for boys in Jerusalem in 2010

(photo credit: RONEN ZVULUN / REUTERS)

The haredi (ultra-Orthodox) school year opened on Monday morning, and will present new challenges for the sector as it has to deal with the coronavirus pandemic.

To that end, the decision was made to follow two main guiding principles: Flexibility and consistency, all while adapting things for the needs to the haredi sector. This includes a budget of NIS 1.2 billion was made for purchasing 70,000 cellphones which are to be given to students. These phones will include a limited mobile plan suited to studying in haredi schools. Protective equipment, as well as hygiene materials will be provided to the school staff.

The Education Ministry has also laid out a closure and reopening plan in case of an increase in coronavirus infections, and it will continue to monitor the amount of patients in each school throughout the year to maintain a consistent view of the coronavirus situation in these schools.

The main focus of this plan is to allow for a consistent learning experience throughout the year, with different learning programs for different age groups, as to allow for a stable phone connection to the class to all students at all times, As well as using printed materials to help those studying at home, per-recorded lessons sent as audio files to students and expanding infrastructure to better facilitate learning.

Online learning will also be expanded upon with a site in which all study materials can be found and downloaded, as well as prerecorded classes which will be sent out to students as audio and video files. Direct online learning using Zoom or WhatsApp will apply to roughly 10% of haredi schools.

“All the children of Israel are my concern, with all that entails. The most important thing at the moment is the health of the students which will affect them and their families,” said Education Minister Yoav Gallant. “The study of the Torah has held together the Jewish people for 2000 years – we are and always have been, the people of the book. There is a great importance to school, it presents stability and confidence to students and their parents as well as the entirety of the Israeli public.”

“The haredi school year has opened as it has every year, in keeping with the coronavirus guidelines and with full preparation to anything that involves the coronavirus,” said the deputy education minister, Meir Porush. “Education Minister Gallant has struggled so that the school year could open on time, getting a budget ready for all the haredi institutions with great care, including some which had not received one before in these magnitudes. This new budget will help recruit tutors, sanitary equipment to protect against the coronavirus and thousands of ‘kosher’ mobile phones to allow learning from afar. These projects are added to other actions taken for the good of the children of Israel now entering the new school year,”

“We’re working around the clock to assure that every child, will start the school year as planned. We have studied that issues that plagued the haredi education system during the first wave, and are working to remedy them during this school year,” said Amit Adri, the Education Ministry director-general. “To that end, we will incorporate various learning tools adjusted for the special needs of the haredi sector and will ensure to create safe working environments for them using the means at our disposal. We work to consistently monitor the infection situation at all times and will act accordingly with the data. I wish the students and staff a very meaningful and productive school year,”

Some 235,000 students will begin the school year on Monday, with 235,000 more female students and kindergarten children joining them on September 1. In total, about 470,000 students will study in haredi schools this year – 120,000 in pre-schools, 245,000 in elementary schools, 95,000 in middle schools and high schools and 10,000 in special education.  

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