Classroom (illustration)
Classroom (illustration) iStock

Israel’s Education Ministry reached an agreement with the Health Ministry Sunday night, paving the way for the opening of Israeli schools starting next month, even if the government moves to impose a lockdown in the coming weeks.

Under the deal struck between the two ministries, led by Education Minister Yifat Shasha-Biton (New Hope) and Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz (Meretz) - with the support of the Finance Ministry – schools will be opened at the start of the school year with the goal of maintaining standard, in-person instruction as much as possible, while also ensuring the health of students and staff members.

The deal will enable a reduction in the use of school closures and lengthy mass-quarantines in the event of COVID outbreaks.

Serological tests will be used to find students who have already recovered from COVID and have achieved natural immunity. These students will be given an exemption from any future quarantines if outbreaks are reported in their classes. The tests will first be offered in the haredi sector starting Monday, because of the early opening of the school system in the haredi sector, with tests in haredi population centers like Modi’in Illit, Beitar Illit, Bnei Brak, Beit Shemesh, and Elad.

Afterwards, the testing program will also be offered to the general population.

The plan also provides for the use of rapid COVID tests, with testing equipment provided to parents prior to the school year to screen for the virus. Some 1.9 million students are slated to be tested two days before the opening of the school year.

In the event that a student tests positive for COVID, other students from the same class will not be automatically sent to quarantine, but will instead be tested for the virus. If they test positive, they will be ordered into isolation; if they test negative, they will be permitted to resume their studies immediately, while continuing to be tested once a day for one week.

If students or staff members exposed to a COVID-positive peer do not wish to be tested will be isolated until the end of the one-week period.

Furthermore, weekly testing will be used in schools in towns and cities with high infection rates to screen for COVID carriers. Masks will be required at schools in all areas, regardless of infection rates.