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Midstate schools are closing to keep eyes off the solar eclipse

Written by Vicky Taylor/Chambersburg Public Opinion | Aug 16, 2017 10:07 AM
Solar_Eclipse_600X360.jpg

Photo by (AP Photo, File)

This March 9, 2016 file photo shows a total solar eclipse in Belitung, Indonesia. Wyoming state tourism officials say the solar eclipse passing over the entire length of Wyoming in August could give the state economy a much needed boost.

(Chambersburg) -- Some midstate school districts are taking action to keep little eyes safe from the dangerous glow of Monday's solar eclipse. 

The eclipse worries area educators, as it will be well involved by the time school is dismissed that day. A mostly sunny day means a likely clear view of the rare phenomenon. 

Chambersburg, Shippensburg and Greencastle-Antrim school districts, as well as the Franklin County Career and Technology Center, have decided to just cancel school that day, instead of running the risk of having students - especially young children - take a peek at the sun as the moon travels between it and the earth without the proper eye protection. 

Other districts that will have started their new years come Monday have not made announcements yet regarding schedule changes to handle the eclipse.

The move means Greencastle-Antrim School District will postpone its first day of school to Tuesday, Aug. 22.

GASD Superintendent  Kendra Trail said the decision to postpone the first day was made after quite a bit of discussion about alternatives, including an early dismissal that would get students home before the eclipse starts at around 1:15 p.m.

She said the main concern is for the safety of the district's students.

"When putting together the school calendar, it is hard to anticipate all of the events that could impact the schedule," Trail said. The district school board had approved this school year's calendar two years ago, when there was no thought of an eclipse affecting the start of the year.

In Chambersburg Area School District's closure announcement, spokeswoman Tammy Stouffer said the peak of the eclipse will occur just shortly before the district's secondary school students would be dismissed.

Stouffer said in the announcement that the closure was an attempt by the district to be proactive in assuring students do not experience negative effects by looking directly at the eclipse.

She said staff were notified of the decision Tuesday morning and calls and/or emails are going out to parents.

Monday's closure due to the eclipse is the second change to the start of Shippensburg's school year. Opening of the high school had already been postponed from Thursday to Monday because a lightning strike severely damaged the SASHS building earlier this month, and now Tuesday will be the first day for those high school students while all other students will get Monday off. 

"We decided to err on the side of safety," said Shippensburg's interim superintendent, Greg Hoover.

FCCTC Director Jim Duffey said that facility always closes when Chambersburg and two other districts who send students there are closed.

Tuscarora School District has been discussing a potential closing and other options for that day, and any decision will be posted on the district's website, according to Superintendent Matthew Strine. Also, parents would be notified by automated call if the school closes that day.

Waynesboro did not return requests for comment by deadline. Monday is to be its first day of school. 

Fannett-Metal School District does not have to alter its schedule, as classes there do not start until Wednesday, Aug. 23. 

Why the concern?

While some areas across the U.S. will see a total eclipse when the moon totally covers the sun for a short period of time, southcentral Pennsylvania will only have an 80 percent eclipse. 

Looking directly at the sun, especially during an eclipse, can cause severe damage to the eye's retina, and even blindness. School officials are concerned some students might try to take a peek.  

Glasses that allow one to view the eclipse safely are available, but the public is warned to take care even when using those, since not all protective glasses are created equal and some might provide inferior protection.

The eclipse is expected to begin around 1:15 p.m., reach the midway point around 2:30, then end at about 4 p.m., according to eclipse2017.org

In addition to the school closure, Trail said GASD has also moved two of its athletic events -- a soccer scrimmage and a golf match -- to later in the day Monday after the eclipse is over.

GASD announced its plan to just start the school year a day later on its website Monday. It will make up the missed day on Jan. 2, 2018.

Chambersburg Area School District announced it will close all its schools Monday in a news release to news media Tuesday. The district will also make up the missed day on Jan. 2.

Strine said once a decision is made for Tuscarora, it will be posted on the district's website, http://www.tus.k12.pa.us/pages/Tuscarora_School_District, and automated messages will be sent to parents.

Information about the eclipse and precautions that should be taken to watch it can be found at https://www.greatamericaneclipse.com/ and https://eclipse2017.nasa.gov/

This article is part of a content-sharing partnership between WITF and Public Opinion Online.

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