UPDATE: In reversal, PBC schools will let kids watch Aug. 21 eclipse


UPDATE: Palm Beach County’s public schools have rescinded their blanket ban on letting students watching the Aug. 21 solar eclipse outdoors, hours after The Palm Beach Post reported that principals had been instructed to keep all kids inside.

In an email memo sent to school leaders Wednesday afternoon, Deputy Superintendent David Christiansen said that schools would now be allowed to let students observe the eclipse directly in “principal-approved” outdoor sessions with protective sunglassses.

Principals have to approve the sessions prior to Aug. 21, Christiansen wrote. Other outdoor activities will still be canceled or moved indoors.

“Looking directly at the sun, even when it is partially covered by the moon, can cause serious eye damage or blindness,” Christiansen wrote. “It is important that you do not look at a partial solar eclipse without proper eye protection.”

Here’s the relevant excerpt of Christiansen’s new memo, which was sent to administrators at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday:

“In order to provide clarification to our previous memo regarding the upcoming solar eclipse (attached), we are providing the following information:

“Our School District and school principals are responsible to provide a safe environment for all students. Schools can participate in a principal-approved “structured eclipse observation activity” using appropriate eyewear.* Principals must approve these activities prior to August 21, and must ensure every safety precaution is taken for eclipse-related lessons. Principals should review eclipse plans with their principal supervisor.”

ORIGINAL STORY: Palm Beach County’s public schools will require all students to stay indoors during the peak hours of the Aug. 21 solar eclipse to protect their safety, according to an internal memo.

All county schools must move normal outside activities indoors from 1:30 to 4:30 p.m., including sports, recess, physical education, band practice and after-care programs, Deputy Superintendent David Christiansen wrote Tuesday in an directive to principals, a copy of which was obtained by The Palm Beach Post.

Rather than watch the eclipse outdoors, the county’s public schools are being asked to instead let students watch it on screens “for safe indoor viewing,” Christiansen wrote.

The rule will not affect school dismissal times, but educators are being asked to be extra careful when releasing students because of the “increased dangers of distracted drivers and pedestrians.”

“Drivers should avoid the roads, if possible, during the eclipse event,” Christiansen wrote.

The directive also prohibits schools from purchasing viewing glasses, which can allow children and adults to observe the eclipse safely.

A school district spokeswoman declined to comment on the memo but said schools plan to provide information about the eclipse to parents this week. The first day of school is Monday.

The school district’s directive to the county’s more than 180 public schools comes as schools across the country are struggling with how to handle the historic eclipse, which will be at its height around 3 p.m.

It’s the first total solar eclipse in 99 years to cross the nation coast-to-coast.

Some school systems nationwide are opting to cancel classes for the day to avoid the risk of students watching the eclipse unsafely. Other schools are purchasing protective glasses and encouraging students to view the historic event.

Because the sun will be more than 80 percent blocked by the moon, it will be easier to look at, raising the prospect that children could damage their vision if allowed to stare at it without proper eye protection.

But the decree is likely to upset some students and teachers who saw the eclipse as a once-in-a-lifetime learning opportunity.

“This is a wonderful opportunity for the students to learn and be immersed in science, but instead we have to be inside streaming it online and hoping the infrastructure doesn’t crash,” said one Palm Beach County elementary school teacher familiar with the edict.

Several school districts in Georgia, where a portion of the state will experience totality, have delayed dismissal times to make sure students safely view the eclipse. Atlanta Public Schools purchased 50,000 glasses for students.

While South Florida will only experience about 80 percent of the sun covered during the eclipse, experts said it’s worth seeing.

“The fact that this one is going to be so deep is going to be very cool,” said Yan Fernandez, associate professor of physics and astronomy at the University of Central Florida. “That just doesn’t happen very often.”

Some experts who missed previous chances to view eclipses say they have come to regret it.

Florida Atlantic University astronomy professor Eric Vandernoot was in the third grade during the 1979 total solar eclipse. He said his teachers were so fearful of the event that they kept the students not only inside during it, but moved them into interior hallways.

Instead of making pinhole viewers to see the eclipse or watching it through safety glasses, Vandernoot listened to a lesson on how to properly brush his teeth.

“Don’t do that to kids, they will never forget missing it,” Vandernoot said. “In 1979 we didn’t have the Internet. Google didn’t exist, so getting teachers to understand how to do things safely was maybe a concern.”

But that’s not the case today.

“If you are a parent, go and talk to your school and persuade them to do something special,” said Ivona Cetinic, an eclipse researcher at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. “It’s an awesome event.”



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Local

12-year-old sister of murder victim reported missing in Florida 
12-year-old sister of murder victim reported missing in Florida 

Police in Florida are searching for a 12-year-old girl who was reported missing early Monday, seven months after her sister went missing and was found dead several days later, the Bradenton Herald reported. The Manatee County Sheriff’s Office said Jalyssa Shannon left her home around 9 p.m. Sunday. Her mother, Michelle Mosley, called deputies...
BREAKING: Three drivers of press vans in Trump motorcade abruptly replaced today
BREAKING: Three drivers of press vans in Trump motorcade abruptly replaced today

BREAKING 9:18 a.m.: Three drivers of press vans in the president’s motorcade were abruptly replaced this morning. More details to follow. Update 9:10 a.m.: The president is back in the swing of things having just arrived at Trump International Golf Course. UPDATE 8:47 a.m.: Still no word on how Trump will be spending the holiday, but...
Teen arrested in connection with Instagram death threat aimed at S. Florida school
Teen arrested in connection with Instagram death threat aimed at S. Florida school

A 15-year-old Florida boy was arrested after posting a message on Instagram threatening to kill people at several Broward County schools, authorities said.  Just after midnight Friday, Broward Sheriff's Office detectives were notified about the online post from a Fort Lauderdale teen. He posted it one day after 17 people were killed during a mass...
Florida teen arrested after Instagram threat to kill people at Broward schools 
Florida teen arrested after Instagram threat to kill people at Broward schools 

A 15-year-old Florida boy was arrested after posting a message on Instagram threatening to kill people at several Broward County schools, authorities said.  Just after midnight Friday, Broward Sheriff's Office detectives were notified about the online post from a Lauderdale teen. He posted it one day after 17 people were killed during a mass shooting...
NEW: Escaped inmate arrested, booked into Palm Beach County Jail
NEW: Escaped inmate arrested, booked into Palm Beach County Jail

After three days on the lam, a missing prisoner was arrested Friday afternoon on an escape charge, Palm Beach County Jail records show. At about noon Tuesday, Jeremy S. Young, 38, walked away from his work assignment at the West Palm Beach Community Release Center at 261 Fairgrounds Road in suburban West Palm Beach, just east of the Royal Palm Beach...
More Stories