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Some school districts to dismiss early for safe solar eclipse viewing

Proper eye protection is a must for anyone looking up at a solar eclipse. Eclipse glasses are far darker than regular sunglasses.
Joseph Okpako/Getty Images
Proper eye protection is a must for anyone looking up at a solar eclipse. Eclipse glasses are far darker than regular sunglasses.

As the moon passes between the sun and earth next month, students in Pennsylvania may be riding school buses or walking home from school.

Curious eyes may glance upward, and if unprotected, vision damage could be permanent.

A growing number of school districts in Northeastern and Central Pennsylvania will dismiss students early on April 8 so that families can make plans for safe viewing.

Pocono Mountain will dismiss three hours early.

“Dismissal times for our secondary and elementary schools fall right within the window of when the eclipse is supposed to be taking place here, and where the sun will be at its brightest,” said Wendy Frable, district director of public relations and safety compliance. “And so there was really no way to ensure that students as they're getting on the buses and riding the buses home wouldn't be looking up at the eclipse.”

The eclipse will begin around 2 p.m. on April 8, with about 95% of the sun covered around 3:20 p.m. Northwest Pennsylvania is the only part of the state that will experience full coverage.

It is not safe to look directly at the sun without specialized eye protection for solar viewing. Doing so can cause permanent damage, according to NASA.

The Pennsylvania Department of Education released guidance to school districts, urging them to consider how to make students as safe as possible. The state will consider an early dismissal for the eclipse to be an early dismissal for inclement weather. The day will count as a full day of instruction.

Many districts, including Abington Heights, Berwick Area, Hazleton Area and Wyalusing Area, also announced early dismissals for April 8.

“The timing of the eclipse will occur during all of our typical dismissal times, putting students outdoors during this event when it could be dangerous to view the eclipse without appropriate eyewear,” according to a letter sent to Abington Heights parents on Friday. “Also, we recognize and appreciate that learning does not only occur within the confines of our classrooms.”

The school districts also sent resources for parents about how to safely view the eclipse and talk about it with their children.

For more information on how to safely view the eclipse, visit: https://science.nasa.gov/eclipses/safety

Sarah Hofius Hall worked at The Times-Tribune in Scranton since 2006. For nearly all of that time, Hall covered education, visiting the region's classrooms and reporting on issues important to students, teachers, families and taxpayers.

You can email Sarah at sarahhall@wvia.org