By Kelly Youngblood
The 2017 total solar eclipse is on the horizon and local schools are prepping for the big event.
Most students in the Champaign-Urbana area will be in school on Monday, Aug. 21- the date of the solar eclipse- but many districts will take advantage of this rare, educational opportunity and allow students to safely experience it during the school day.
In the Champaign-Urbana area, only a partial eclipse will be seen. (You’ll have to travel a few hours south to Carbondale to see a total solar eclipse.) But school officials are well aware of the safety precautions that must be taken in order to prevent any eye damage.
Here’s what some Champaign-Urbana area districts will be doing to celebrate this unique, celestial event:
Champaign Unit #4
In the Champaign School District, each school is hosting different activities, most taking place at the classroom level. A number of students at Edison will walk over to participate with the Champaign Public Library.
Aug. 21 is the first day of school for students in the Heritage district and Superintendent Tom Davis said they are still devising a plan for students. The district has a budget for eclipse glasses, which could be used for students whose parents give permission. Davis said he is aware of other schools that allow younger children to watch from a window but not leave the building and that option is being considered. Davis said the major emphasis will be on safety and science.
In the Mahomet-Seymour School District, Superintendent Lindsey Hall said teachers have been preparing age-appropriate activities and lessons for students “in order to fully embrace this teachable moment.” The district has purchased safe viewing glasses as well for students to go outside to view the eclipse. Recognizing that many families may choose to travel on this day to a location closer to the total eclipse, the absence will be excused for the day.
Parents in the Monticello district received a letter explaining the district’s plan for the day, which includes all students and staff going outside during the afternoon of Aug. 21. Eclipse safety glasses will be available for everyone and precautionary measures will be taken to ensure the experience is both safe and enjoyable. Students will not be permitted to look at the sun or partially eclipsed sun through cameras, telescopes, binoculars, or other optical devises, with or without glasses. Parents are asked to discuss the importance of wearing safety glasses with their child in advance.
Superintendent Andy Larson of the Unit 7 district said several plans are in place to allow student to safely experience the eclipse. PTO/Boosters will be providing the specialized glasses and small groups of elementary kids will be taken out to view the eclipse under proper supervision. Indoor recess will be held to limit opportunities to stare at the eclipse. Parents will sign a permission slip to allow their child to view it as well. The district will also live stream the feed from NASA so it can be viewed from classrooms at the elementary, junior high and high school facilities. Under direct supervision, science classes at the junior high and high school will follow the same protocols as elementary buildings to view the eclipse. Other than that, students will be staying inside from 11am to 2:30 pm.
University Laboratory High School
At Uni Hi, Charles Forbes from the Astronomy Department will speak to the students and staff on Aug. 18. On Aug. 21, glasses will be provided for students and staff to safely view the eclipse. Students will not be allowed outside without glasses.
Urbana USD #116
USD #116 will provide all their students who are in school that day with NASA-approved eclipse glasses for viewing the event. Superintendent Dr. Don Owen asked all of the schools in the Urbana district to take time that day to take the students outside during the most dramatic part of the eclipse (with their glasses of course). A number of teachers are also building lessons plans around the eclipse.
For more on The 2017 Total Solar Eclipse in the Champaign-Urbana area, including area events, see our post.