Education Minister Rabbi Shai Piron (Yesh Atid) faced criticism on Sunday, after a report on Channel 2 News said that he plans to change the school year schedule so that Fridays become a day off from school.
According to the report, Piron plans to use the Fridays to replace other days off that students receive during the year. Last week Piron announced he plans to cut back on the number of school vacation days that students in Israel get every year, after receiving complaints from parents that students are getting two days off for Lag Ba’Omer at the beginning after just recently having returned from the Passover vacation.
Channel 2 reported that Piron wants to make this change without hurting the rights of teachers, whose vacation days are part of their wage agreements, and therefore established a committee to examine the issue.
The problem surrounding the school vacations is a result of a decision by former Education Minister Gideon Saar, who shortened the summer vacation by five days in 2012. As a result, the school calendar had to be re-done so that the five days off are given back to teachers during the school year.
In the wake of the criticism voiced towards his plan, Piron clarified on his Facebook page on Sunday evening that he does not plan on cancelling school completely on Fridays but simply to give students five Fridays off during the school year.
“Due to the fact that the school year starts on August 27 and not on September 1, we need to ‘give back’ five teaching days to the teachers,” he wrote. “These days increase the gap between the students’ vacation days and the parents' working days. This is what created a vacation bridge between Yom Kippur and Sukkot, and caused the Lag Ba'Omer vacation to be lengthened to two days.”
“All I suggested was to check whether it is possible to restore these five days on Fridays,” stressed Piron. “That’s it. Five Fridays off will give the teachers back their vacation days, on a day when most parents do not work anyway.”
He added, “This is not a shortening of vacations, not changing the structure of the school year in any way. All these things should be discussed with proper attention. Slowly. With parents and teachers.”