School District Taking Precautions for Monday’s Solar Eclipse


The path of the “Great American Solar Eclipse” on Monday, Aug. 21

It has been a long time coming, but finally a total solar eclipse will be in full view of the United States for the first time in almost 100 years. This astronomical phenomenon will occur August 21, and many school districts in the country are taking precautions to deal with the dangers posed by the rare occurrence.

So, what exactly is a solar eclipse? A solar eclipse is when the moon passes between the sun and the earth. This is not to be confused with a lunar eclipse, which occurs at night with the Earth coming between the sun and the moon and the earth casts a shadow on the moon causing the Sun’s rays to reflect on the moon creating a reddish-brown color.

This unique and rare experience, for many of us here at Olympic Heights and around the entire country, will cause the sky to turn dark, temperatures to drop, and bright stars to become visable in the sky.

The solar eclipse itself looks like a large black circle surrounded by the Sun’s corona, or the outer layer of its surface. However, this precise occurrence is particularly rare. This will be the first time the eclipse totally crosses the United States from coast to coast since June 8, 1918.      Additionally, it is first continent-wide eclipse to be visible to just the United States since 1776. The last time the U.S. saw a total solar eclipse was on February 26, 1979, but it was only visible in the Pacific Northwest.

Monday’s solar eclipse will begin at 1:30 p.m., with its culminating point occurring around 3:00 p.m. when almost 80 percent of the Sun will be obstructed from view by the moon. It will take an additional 80 minutes for the moon to completely clear the Sun, with the event concluding at 4:30 p.m.

Watching the eclipse with the naked eye can cause damage to the retina, possibly leading to blindness. Just a brief glance at the eclipse can do serious damage. The only safe way to watch the eclipse is with ISO Certified glasses or viewer. Unfortunately for OH students, the prime time of the eclipse is shortly after school lets out, so students are going to have to force themselves to not look at it without the proper eye protection.

The School District of Palm Beach County is taking steps to ensure the safety of their students. Letters went home telling parents that if they choose to keep their school-aged children hom on the day of the eclipse, it will be considered an excused absence and – for high school students- won’t be counted toward the 10-day absence threshold requiring the passing of semester exams to earn credit for a course.

In addition, parents who wish to sign out their children of school early are permitted to do so, but it requested that the sign out happen before noon. Additionally, all school-related outdoor activities between the hours of 1:30 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. – including but not limited to physical education classes, recess, athletic practice, band practice and aftercare programs – must be moved indoors.

It is up to each school whether they would like to participate in structured eclipse observation activities using the proper safety ISO certified glasses. And, of course, the eclipse will be covered live on various television networks, providing the safest way possible to view it.

After the 1979 solar eclipse, then ABC News Anchor Frank Reynolds commented, “So that’s it — the last solar eclipse to be seen on this continent in this century. And as I said, not until August 21, 2017, will another eclipse be visible from North America. That’s 38 years from now. May the shadow of the moon fall on a world in peace. ABC News, of course, will bring you a complete report on that next eclipse 38 years from now.”

This is a once in a lifetime opportunity that all, as a unified school, state, and nation should not take for granted.