Valley school administrators outline dismissal changes, eclipse viewing on Monday

Apr. 3—Monday's solar eclipse has Valley school administrators figuring out how to safely allow students, faculty and staff to enjoy the once-in-a-lifetime event.

Since the total or partial solar eclipse will occur around student dismissal from school on Monday, April 8, the Pennsylvania Department of Education is allowing districts to dismiss students early due to "inclement weather" for safety reasons.

For some, an issue of concern is the liability school districts could face due to safety concerns — including permanent damage to the retina — involved if a child looks at the sun without special glasses during the eclipse.

Mifflinburg Schools Superintendent Kenneth Dady Jr. sent out an email Thursday morning that the district would not be giving out protective glasses or allowing students to observe the eclipse live.

"When looking at all the steps and the potential liability on the teachers and district, we came to the conclusion that we feel it puts the teachers (and the district) in a really bad position with the requirements that have been put out by the insurance companies," Dady said.

Secondary school students at Mifflinburg will be dismissed at the regular time on April 8 since buses depart before the eclipse, Dady said in the statement.

Mifflinburg elementary and intermediate school students will be dismissed at 3:40 p.m., about 10 minutes later than usual. Kindergarten through fifth-grade students will be able to watch the eclipse in classrooms on live-streaming sites, he said.

Danville Area School District has already decided to release students two hours early on April 8 since the eclipse is scheduled to peak in the area at 3:10 p.m.

After school and evening athletic and extracurricular activities in the district will begin at 4:30 p.m. or later and any changes to scheduled games will be announced.

In the Midd-West School District, students who want to experience the eclipse at school may stay, with a signed permission letter.

Supervision and ISO-certified protective glasses will be provided. Transportation will be provided at 3:45 p.m. Alternative methods of viewing will be available if the weather doesn't cooperate.

Milton is considering an early dismissal but hasn't made a final decision, Superintendent John Bickhart said. "We will share with students information and educational opportunities about this unique experience," he said of the eclipse.

Shikellamy Schools Superintendent Jason Bendle said nothing has yet been decided while Selinsgrove, Midd-West and Warrior Run school districts have decided to keep the same dismissal schedule.

Selinsgrove will provide ISO-certified glasses to all of its 2,400 students and 300 faculty and staff, said Superintendent Frank Jankowksi. The special glasses are safe to use when looking at the eclipse and cost under $1 apiece, he said.

Joe Stroup, superintendent at Midd-West, said the administration has not made a firm decision about an early dismissal, but students will be educated about the upcoming eclipse and importance of not looking at the sun even when it is largely hidden by the moon.

At Warrior Run, "We have purchased glasses for all students. Science teachers are using this event as a teachable moment," said Superintendent Thor Edmiston.

The Lewisburg Area School District purchased solar eclipse glasses for all students and staff for the celestial event on April 8, according to a statement released by Superintendent Cathy Moser on Monday.

"Our students will have the opportunity to witness this phenomenon firsthand," said Moser. "As always, our priority is the safety and well-being of our students, and we are taking steps to ensure that they can enjoy this rare event safely."

Since the total or partial solar eclipse will occur around student dismissal from school on Monday, April 8, the Pennsylvania Department of Education is allowing districts to dismiss students early due to "inclement weather" for safety reasons.

To maximize the opportunity for students to witness this natural wonder, the dismissal times for Kelly Elementary and Linntown Intermediate will be delayed by 10 minutes on the day of the eclipse to allow time to experience and appreciate the event, said Moser.

"We believe that this additional time will enhance the educational value of the eclipse viewing experience for our students," she said. "If you would like to pick up your elementary child early that day, please pick up your child prior to 3 p.m. Please notify the school if you intend to use an early dismissal for your child."

Middle school and high school students will dismiss at their regularly scheduled time, but will be provided glasses to view after school. Those students who participate in athletics will receive instruction from their respective coaches, said Moser.

The start of practices is delayed until 4 p.m., she said.

"Please note that although we are taking precautions to ensure safe viewing, we strongly encourage you to discuss the importance of following safety guidelines with your child prior to the event," said Moser. "It is crucial that students understand the potential risks associated with looking directly at the sun without proper eye protection."