Corona making School Confusing and Difficult in Israel

After returning to school post Corona, our new normal included daily temperature checks, signed notes promising our kids were not sick and mandatory mask for all the kids in the 2nd grade or older. 

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All the kids had to bring their own supplies everyday (no sharing) and bring their own lunches to school.

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There was also some attempts to distance the students and smaller classes, rotating days for Mika’s Reception (preschool) class. But the government eventually brought everyone back to their classrooms a week later. 

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Josh was also able to return to boarding school, but unable to leave campus on the weekends as the policy was in the past, to protect the students. We were just happy the school year was saved and they could return.

Our new normal was going well and we were finally back to some routine. It was a nice change of pace after everyone was stuck at home for weeks. 

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Our color coded whiteboard schedule for the 3 kids
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Josh and Summer on their computers for distance learning
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Mika in her zoom class

And since Israel schools go longer into the Summer, we still had a few months to go.

But, just as we were hitting our stride, the girls school abruptly closed their doors…3 weeks after it reopened.

We had heard rumors the previous night about a teachers’ husband coming down with Covid 19. But, the email didn’t come until the next morning confirming a teacher and her 3rd grade daughter at the school had also tested positive. Israel’s current policy is the close a school with one positive case. So, our school did that with an email sent out at midnight they were CLOSED until further notice.

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The email was one thing, but what happened after was more confusing. We were not sure if the girls should be quarantined, tested or what our next steps should be. Jim stayed home from work while we tried to get information. The school’s email said they would be contacting us later that day once they spoke to the Ministry of Education, the arm that runs Israel’s education system. While we waited, we sent emails out to our doctor, called friends and tried to get more information about what to do. The teacher diagnosed did not teach our girls, so it was more confusing. Most of our information came from the class WhatsApp groups.  Many of the Israeli parents could get information faster in Hebrew.

After waiting all day for information, we were advised we did not need to get the girls tested since they did not have direct contact with the teacher. A few of Summer’s classmates did have the Arabic teacher that tested positive, so testing for them was recommended.

At first, we thought it might be a good idea to get the girls a test. But, we found out it would not be easy.  All covid testing in Israel is coordinated through the state run health or insurance system. We had this coverage also, but never used it because it was too complicated to figure it out without fluency in Hebrew.  I could not even understand the voice prompts in Hebrew when I tried to set up an appointment. When I had someone help set an appointment for me once, I needed help at the clinic to use the kiosk to give me a number for my position in line.

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I tried to memorize that number in Hebrew when there wasn’t a screen to tell me what number they were calling. 

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The receptionist also didn’t speak English well, so another patient was translating what I needed.  And several more issues led us to just pay to use a private English speaking doctor for ease.  The cost so was equivalent to a copay in the US, we just opted for easy.

But, we learned we needed to figure out this system if we wanted a corona test now or in the future. Our private doctor told us he was unable to order a test privately.  Our parent WhatsApp groups also confirmed this from other expats. Apparently, Israel can do better tracking when it is centralized this way.

We were also told anyone who requests a test must quarantine until they get the results. And our private doctor added given the girls’ limited exposure, no symptoms and uncomfortable testing procedure, he said he would not do it if his kids were in a similar situation. We decided to take his advice.

Since this happened a few weeks ago, all of the students in Summer’s class tested negative. The school was scheduled to reopen 2 weeks after it was closed. That did not happen last week as planned. In the time the school was closed, there have been pockets of larger outbreaks in the city where the school is located. In fact, Israel is experiencing a growing number of outbreaks since the country reopened. The numbers are still low compared to America, but Tel Aviv went weeks without any cases and seeing a growing number now.

It’s been difficult to get things done and not having a predictable schedule with distance learning. Summer is independent with her online classes, but Mika requires constant attention with her zoom classes and lots of one-on-one follow up work for reading, writing, math and language classes.

The girls have a week left before school officially ends. They are once again suppose to go back next week, just 2 days before school ends on June 30th. The proposal to extend schools into July was cancelled because the teachers union and government were unable to reach an agreement. The girls’ private school follows the public school lead on issues like this.

Jim anticipates this opening and closing schools may continue when school reopens in the fall. So, the rollercoaster corona school ride may continue next year.

Just before posting this at 8:30 tonight, we received an email from the school.  School will reopen tomorrow!

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3 comments on “Corona making School Confusing and Difficult in Israel

  1. Covid-19 Education – The world is learning what to do. I fear Jim is right but hope it is not the case! Josh is really lucky he was able to go back to school and continue in person learning. His year sounds so amazing! All the worry a year ago paid off 100 fold for him, I believe. I don’t expect you will come back to the US with the lack of Covid control here. If you do, I have a son who would love to get together with yours at an hour other than 2 or 3am our time! Wishing you a great summer. Hopefully the beaches and pools will be open so you can enjoy.

    • I’m sure Josh would LOVE that! We were planning to return for a month before the outbreak. Unfortunately, we can’t come now. Summer was so disappointed she couldn’t attend her sleep away a camp. The good news is the pools and beaches have been open for weeks here. We go every weekend and sometimes during the week since it’s literally across the street. We are still hoping you can come visit sometime in the future. The boys would have so much fun here in Tel Aviv!

      • Nick is now able to travel solo! So once global health is back in balance, I would love to discuss sending him for a week! Love your posts, hope to see more.

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