Tel Aviv to open classrooms in city’s leading public institutions
By David E. Kaplan
Parents in Israel are in Corona virus panic mode with their kids returning to shool on the 1 September.
“Are the schools ready?” “Does the government know what it’s doing?” “Will schools close again?”
There are far more sensible questions than credible answers and being a Jewish state, grandparents feel obliged to share in the panic. After all, when the domestic alarm bells sounds, Saba and Safta (grandfather and grandmother) are the ‘First Responders’!
However, Israel’s “City of big ideas”, Tel Aviv-Yafo, has come up with some innovative ideas on meeting this challenge. Mayor, Ron Huldai, says “We have prepared for every scenario that we are expected to confront.”
What this means is that while it may be back to school, it might not be exactly the same school or the school as it once was.
What does this mean?
New and intriguing surroundings will welcome the schoolchildren, after the city’s education system adopted a series of creative solutions to enable in-class learning. To this end, the Tel Aviv-Yafo municipality has prepared for the return of almost 75,000 pupils to schools amid strict Health Ministry COVID-19 guidelines, including the opening of classrooms in a range of public buildings and spaces across the city.
It is a case of “and now for something completely different!”
To enable classes to be split into smaller “capsules for safer and socially distanced learning”, additional spaces have been secured at sites including Tel Aviv’s Cameri Theater, the Charles Bronfman Auditorium (Heichal HaTarbut), the Israel Music Conservatory and Tel Aviv University. One ‘sure thing’ during these “unsure times” is the certainty of no rain. So, taking advantage of Israel’s guaranteed sunshine this time of year, classes will also be taught in parks and other green spaces located adjacent to schools.
Work of Art
Smaller classes means requiring more teachers, so the Municipality came up the idea of utilising local artists and performers who have been impacted by the coronavirus to provide the additional teaching staff for the supplementary classes. Not sitting idle in the sweltering summer vacations, they have been undergoing training as educational support workers and are ready for the big day.
Sounding like gearing up for a Normandy landing, Ron Huldai, Mayor of Tel Aviv-Yafo said in a press release:
“The coronavirus outbreak hurled the entire world into a new reality and presented us with a challenge of an unprecedented nature. Given the experience of recent months, we have made special preparations for the opening of the new school year.
The schools of September 2020 will be unlike the schools that we have known to date. The coming year will bring new challenges, but there are also opportunities: to implement upgrades; to accelerate pedagogical and structural processes for which the time is now ripe; and to reexamine our educational premises. We have prepared for every scenario that we are expected to confront this year in the shadow of the coronavirus, and we are all hopeful that this year will advance us to unprecedented and different levels of ability.”
Such inspirational rhetoric during a global war against a disease, gives credence to the rumours that Tel Aviv Mayor, Ron Huldai, is mulling a run for Prime Minister. In a July 19 article in The Jerusalem Post, it was reported that he was facing increasing calls to enter national politics after 22 years as the Mayor of Tel Aviv and earlier careers as an IAF combat pilot and high school principal.
As a former “high school principal”, Mayor Huldai understands education at a grassroots level, which has helped him respond to the current pandemic crisis.
Out in the Open
In addition to opening classrooms in public buildings and institutions – all impressive landmark structures on the Tel Aviv landscape – infrastructure work has been carried out in 137 schoolyards across the city to enable or enhance outdoor learning, including greater provision of shade and artificial grass.
Tel Aviv has proved from its inception in 1909 to be a city that adjusts to change. Understanding that students returning to school might not be quite the same they were before the pandemic, has led to finding new methodologies to navigate the uncertain road ahead.
According to the press release, “All educational institutions in the city will dedicate the first days of the school year to personal and group conversations with pupils, placing an emphasis on enhancing their emotional and social skills.”
Explains Shirley Rimon-Bracha, Head of Tel Aviv-Yafo’s Education Administration:
“The past six months have presented educational teams in kindergartens and schools with management and educational challenges. We have translated all the lessons learnt and insights into optimal preparations for September.
Education in the city has undergone significant reform in recent years, and school principals are therefore relatively prepared to acclimatize to change, to adjust educational frameworks and to work with flexibility and creatively. I expect an interesting and educational year for us all, and I pay tribute to school and kindergarten heads for their exceptional effort to open the new school year.”
In addition to using public spaces, pupils arriving at over 70 elementary and middle schools on September 1, will be greeted by approximately 200 street performers at the school gates and adjacent public spaces.
The performances will fulfil two key municipal objectives: boosting the income of street performers and raising the morale of schoolchildren as they start an unfamiliar academic year.
That does not mean parents will still not worry.
Its embedded in Jewish DNA. As one writer once noted:
“Forget Murphy’s Law. Chances are his real name was Murphosky and his family taught him: “If anything can go wrong, it will.”
On the other hand it might not – Tel Aviv is ready.
While the mission of Lay of the Land (LotL) is to provide a wide and diverse perspective of affairs in Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish world, the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by its various writers are not necessarily ones of the owners and management of LOTL but of the writers themselves. LotL endeavours to the best of its ability to credit the use of all known photographs to the photographer and/or owner of such photographs