Coronavirus cabinet to decide on schools in red zones tonight

On the eve before the start of the school year, the coronavirus cabinet intends to meet in order to make a final decision on whether schools in red zones throughout the country will open. Coronavirus commissioner Prof. Ronni Gamzu strongly opposes opening these schools. Education Minister Yoav Gallant would like to see all schools start.“It could be that the education minister will be justified in the end, but this is not about who is right,” Gamzu said during a press briefing Monday afternoon. “We manage risks, and this is not a risk to take.“With all due respect, sometimes you do not have all the professional tools,” Gamzu continued, “Any other person other than me would have gotten up and walked out.”Gamzu was in part responding to statements made earlier in the morning by Prof. Gabi Barbash, who was first tapped by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to be the country’s coronavirus commissioner. Barbash said in a radio interview that if he had accepted the position, “with my temperament, I would have resigned three times already: once after the entry of 17,000 students [from abroad to learn in Israel], a second time for Uman and a third time for the start of the school year in red cities.At the briefing, Gamzu said he would use all his strength to fight against the decision to allow schools in red cities to resume. He also noted that many of the red and orange local authorities are asking for restrictions to help bring down infection in their cities – including not opening schools.“I do not believe that the school year will open in the red cities as usual tomorrow,” Gamzu told the press. “They say I am crazy that I ask not to open schools in the red cities, but some of the heads of the authorities are interested in it.”He said he does not believe there will be a single school without a verified case in red cities – “therefore, I insist on it and will continue to insist” that these schools do not open.Former Education Ministry director-general Michal Cohen backed Gamzu. She said, “Opening schools in red areas would be a mistake that would lead to closures of entire cities.”Gamzu said the fight over opening schools in red cities does not look good to the public. Nonetheless, he said he had to accept it.“This is the situation, and as of now, we are still in dialogue,” Gamzu added.He also stressed that the infection rate is extremely high at present in the Arab sector, which is very worrisome. A list of 24 red cities published by the Health Ministry showed that 18 of them were Arab towns. Three were haredi (ultra-Orthodox).Gamzu used the press conference also to explain his traffic light program, which is how cities will be identified as red, orange, yellow or green. While green cities are supposed to have minimal restrictions, he stressed that the plan only works if red zones are controlled. This would likely include restrictions on movement, in addition to the schools. Outside of the red zones, however, schools will open on Tuesday as planned, according to a ruling by Judge Hadas Yahalom on Monday. Yahalom ruled against the Teachers’ Union’s right to strike after the union and the Education Ministry agreed to maintain a dialog and that no teachers will be placed on unpaid leave without being allowed to present their case in the space of 24 hours. The ministry agreed to offer 800 pre-retirement positions to teachers who can present medical verification that they are at risk for becoming seriously ill from coronavirus.On Sunday, the ministry also offered to help protect teachers by investing NIS 30 million in purchasing protective gear for preschool and elementary school teachers. The National Parents Association also reported it will not call on parents to avoid sending their children to school, thus disrupting the school year, after “creative, alternative solutions” were found to allow children to learn more than two days a week in their classrooms.The original outline provided by the Education Ministry involved fifth and sixth graders learning two days a week in school and three remotely. Parents objected to the outline, explaining that their children could not manage to be on their own for so many hours and likely would not be able to follow the curriculum without parental guidance. “We are aware that not all schools can report all problems were solved,” parent association head Mirom Shif. “We continue to work with all those involved to find practical solutions in the near future.” Associate Vice chairwoman Odelia Cohen-Schondors added that, “Our goal was never to disrupt the year just for the sake…

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