Education Minister Yifat Shasha-Biton (New Hope) spoke Wednesday to Israel Hayom about summer vacation, saying that she would like to find "creative solutions" but wants to work "with all the partners" in order to do so.
Wednesday is the last day of Israel's school year: When the last bell rings, 1,661,890 children in preschools (ages 3-6) and elementary schools (grades 1-6), will start their summer vacation.
Some of the students are enrolled in "summer school," but a recent survey showed that those numbers are low for students in grades 5-6.
"It's important to remember everything, so that we can learn from mistakes," Shasha-Biton said at the start of her interview with Israel Hayom. "I think that we can't repeat the inconceivable compromise on the students during this entire school year. It was very easy to send them home for a long period of time. We can't give them educational material over Zoom without paying attention to the emotional and social aspects [as well]. Students have come to me on the coronavirus committee, telling me we forgot them at home and that they're sick of being a square on a screen - it's a punch in the stomach for me."
Regarding the upcoming school year, she emphasized that a team of health experts are sitting with Education Ministry officials to lay out a plan for next year.
"The idea is to preserve routine for the students, if G-d forbid there is an outbreak," she said.
When asked about her plan to have students studying five days a week instead of six, she explained: "The intention is to cancel traditional studies on Fridays, and turn it into a social day."
"There will be enrichment activities, we'll work with the youth movements, and we'll even integrate the personal obligations of high school students in the elementary schools."
Reassuring the parents, Shasha-Biton emphasized: "On Fridays, children will be in school. The goal is to create something with a widescale and significant influence. I don't see the education system as a school; rather, I see it as a house of education, with social, emotional, and other elements. Regarding what will happen to the academic hours from Friday - that'll be worked out during the coming year. Maybe we'll take them and spread them over the rest of the week."
"I have the idea and the vision, but how it happens - that's something we'll build, together with the teachers' organizations and the local authorities. Teachers will not work less," she promised.
Regarding the gap between students' vacation days and parents' vacation days, Shasha-Biton said: "That's a different issue that we need to deal with. I've spoken more than once about the fact that we can find creative solutions, such as changing summer vacation from July-August to August-September. But that's something that I want to work on together with all of the partners. I don't want anyone in the system to feel like we're coming in and dictating."
"The first step in moving to a five-day school week will be in middle and high schools. Friday's hours will be spread across the rest of the week. It's four hours. That will eliminate Fridays and make things a lot more sane, and it won't harm the teachers."
"Summer is vacation and fun, but it invites a lot of temptations," she said. "Take care of yourselves. Don't do things that are dangerous."