Rafi Peretz
Rafi Peretz Kobi Richter/ TPS

Education Minister Rabbi Rafi Peretz addressed Israeli students' first day back in school since all education facilities in the country were closed due to the outbreak of the coronavirus: "Students came back happy." Peretz believes that in the coming days all students in grades 1-3 will return to school. He also stated that the education system is ready for the return of students ages 0-6.

Kipa Hebrew News reported that Education Minister Rabbi Rafi Peretz was interviewed on Channel 12 Sunday evening, and addressed students returning to school, despite a number of municipalities refusing to cooperate with the decision. "Today is a holiday,"

Peretz said he was not concerned about the lack of cooperation, and that it was clear to him that things would gradually return to normal, that the return would be voluntary; even coordinated with local authorities. He said the children "returned very happy," and said he believes this will affect the rest of the parents who would end up sending their children to school.

"Tomorrow 95% of students will return to school," said Peretz. "We let local authorities know it was okay that they were not ready yet. Within two days the whole system will be back." Peretz says that by the beginning of next week, kindergartens will also be back, but emphasizes the importance of first receiving data from the Gartner Institute report. "At present, their graph shows a decline [in virus infections], and on Sunday the education system will be ready to go back to work. In grades 0-6, each class will be split in half, with each having both a regular teacher and aide. There will be 7-8 children per group."

The Minister of Education also addressed how 4 - 6 grades, which currently find themselves devoid of classrooms as 1-3 graders now split into additional groups have been utilizing rooms normally reserved for higher grade levels, would return to school. "As soon as we want to bring back grades 4-6, and this will happen in the coming month, the entire system will be back running. So, to make room for everyone, we will also allocate additional places to be used as classrooms, or rotate shifts."

Peretz said that school studies would probably take place on a rotational basis, with first and third grades studying in the first half of the week and fourth and sixth grades in the second half. This means that in the next few days, first and third grade students will attend school almost all the entire week, and as soon as fourth and sixth grades come back, first and third graders will drop back down to half a week.

Rabbi Peretz says that the ministry will "assess all available options" and that "the next step will come in two weeks." "So after we see how things go over these weeks, we'll make decisions accordingly."

Asked whether he expects to hold a ministerial post in the upcoming government, Peretz said: "Honest negotiations are being brokered. I hope that I will [continue] being a minister in the next government."