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2 Peel Region school boards reschedule PA day because of solar eclipse

The moon passes in front of the sun for a total solar eclipse visible from Farmington, Mo., Monday, Aug. 21, 2017. (Anthony Souffle/Star Tribune via The Associated Press - image credit)
The moon passes in front of the sun for a total solar eclipse visible from Farmington, Mo., Monday, Aug. 21, 2017. (Anthony Souffle/Star Tribune via The Associated Press - image credit)

Two Peel Region school boards have rescheduled a professional activity day in light of the 2024 total solar eclipse, citing risks of students looking directly at the phenomenon.

Peel District School Board (PDSB) and Dufferin Peel Catholic School Board say a PA day originally planned for May 17 will be moved to April 8, the day of the eclipse.

The eclipse is one of the most significant astronomical events this year. It is expected to begin at approximately 2 p.m. and last until roughly 4:30 p.m.

That coincides with "student dismissal times," PDSB said in a news release.

Viewing a solar eclipse without appropriate eye protection can cause partial or complete loss of eyesight, the board said. The decision to move the PA day was "made to ensure that students will not be outdoors during the total solar eclipse."

A 'missed opportunity,' say some parents

PDSB parent Tom Ellard said the decision "demonstrates illogical decisions justified by nonsensical harm reduction ideas."

"The sky will be the same sky for children at home or at school. Too bad that this solar eclipse is to be feared and not made into a fascinating science lecture on how to view our amazing sun and its impact on our small planet.

"Don't read books from before 2008," he said referencing a book weeding process implemented last spring. "And most of all, don't look up!"

Another PDSB parent, Kevin Wagar said he is "torn about the rescheduling."

He said said not teaching kids about the "huge science moment" is a "missed opportunity." He plans to use the day to teach his kids to safely witness the eclipse.

"It does sadden me that many kids won't have that chance though," he said.

Joe De Guzman is a PDSB parent and has similar plans.

"Maybe that's what the board thought would happen by making this decision, rather than taking on the thousands of complaints that their kids are looking directly into the sun," Guzman said.

While partial solar eclipses take place regularly in Canada, some parts of the country haven't experienced one in 50 years, and it will be over 80 years before the next one, according to the federal government's website.

"A total eclipse of the sun is the most awe-inspiring and sublime astronomical event visible to the naked eye," said Fred Espenak, a retired NASA astronomer and the agency's lead eclipse expert.

"It is something everyone should see at least once in their life," Espenak told CBC News.

Not only will viewers be able to see the sun's corona, but Jupiter and Venus will suddenly appear in the darkened sky.