Dear Ministers Gallant (Education) and Katz (Finance),
I’d like to draw your attention to a matter related to our children returning to school. I suspect this situation applies to just a handful of schools. Assuming it does apply to just a handful of schools, I can understand that it may have been overlooked, with a small addition of budget we can resolve this matter.
My sons are students at Kfar haNoar haDati Kfar Hasidim. It is my understanding that as a Kfar Noar, with students who board, schools will operate a full schedule, five days a week. So my children, as day students are also invited back to learn at full schedule, five days a week, regular hours.
It’s one of the advantages of a Kfar Noar. The school campus is sprawling and expansive with extra buildings and spaces not normally found in a traditional school campus. I know that our school staff has expended a great deal of energy figuring out how to split the classes to small pods and hire additional staff to enable our children to learn in the safest possible manner. Following Ministry of Education guidelines to protect the health of our children. I thank our amazing staff of the school and the Kfar, as well as the financial support and resources from the government to make this happen.
External students take a bus to and from school each day. We live in Yokneam Illit, so they ride a chartered bus because there is no public transit available to us. In fact, there is no public transit to the school at all, so all students ride private, chartered buses. Parents pay for these chartered buses (but that’s a letter for another day – or rather, the one waiting in your inboxes already, and in Hebrew).
On Thursday, the Ministry of Education released these guidelines stating that students can ride on buses at full capacity. My children travel 30-40 minute each way, more than enough time, per the current understanding of the virus, to be infected. And we know that teenagers are in fact susceptible to this virus and that the health consequences can be quite severe. Please explain to me the justification for such a guideline in light of all the resources and time being put into building small learning pods to protect the health of our children? We are wasting the resources invested in small classes when we put a mixture of grades together on a full bus. What’s the point, then?
With so many kids learning in a hybrid model, I have no doubt that there are surplus buses, and drivers who want to work, to provide the needed routes.
Parents can’t pay double the price to expand bus service. Schools don’t have that kind of discretionary budget. Bus companies can’t lose money on routes, their drivers have to put food on their tables. Why isn’t the Ministry of Education to provide sufficient funding to cover this?
Do you really think that teenagers riding on full buses are going to keep their masks on when they can’t even keep their butts in their seats and their music at a level that doesn’t irritate the driver on a daily basis? Are you going to comfort parents while they pray that their children recover? Or are you going to realize this missed detail in planning, rectify it now, before school starts in two weeks, and provide the necessary budget? We know high schools were a major source of our last outbreak. Doesn’t this seem like a prudent precaution?
My school doesn’t offer a distance learning option, and that would be absurd to ask of the teaching staff. Our only option is for the Ministries of Education and Finance to find the funding and update the guidelines to ensure our children’s safety not only in the classroom, but also on the way to and from school. The clock is ticking, September 1st is right around the corner.