solar eclipse

Photo by Jongsun Lee on Unsplash.

In a unified move with other school boards across Ontario, Bluewater District School Board (BWDSB) and Bruce Grey Catholic District School Board (BGCDSB) have decided to change the Professional Activity (PA) Day originally scheduled for Friday, April 26, 2024 to Monday, April 8, 2024.

• Monday, April 8, 2024 is now a PA day.
• Friday, April 26, 2024 is now a regular school day.

"This means that BWDSB and BGCDSB students will not be attending classes on Monday, April 8, 2024 and Friday, April 26, 2024 will shift to a regular school day," read a recent joint media release.

The decision is being made in anticipation of a total solar eclipse expected to occur between 2pm and 4:30pm on Monday, April 8, 2024. The eclipse is expected to be visible across North America, including specific regions of Ontario.

"The primary concern prompting this schedule change is the safety and well-being of our students and staff during the solar eclipse," read the release. "As many students would be getting on the bus or walking home from school during this timeframe, their risk of looking directly at the solar eclipse would be significantly increased."

The release said that viewing a solar eclipse directly without proper protection can be harmful due to the intense sunlight that remains even as the moon obscures part or all of the sun. The sun's rays can cause significant eye damage, and regular sunglasses do not offer adequate protection against harmful solar radiation.

Both boards said ensuring the safety of their entire school communities remains their utmost priority. They understand that changes to the school calendar may affect daily routines but said they appreciate the community's flexibility and cooperation.

"Ensuring the safety of our entire school community remains our utmost priority," the release said. "We thank you for your ongoing support and commitment to maintaining a safe and nurturing environment for all."

Grey Bruce Public Health (GBPH) Physician Consultant, Dr Rim Zayed, said that while total solar eclipses offer researchers and scientists opportunities to gather valuable data, "it is crucial for everyone to prioritize eye safety during this celestial event."

"Directly staring at the sun, even during an eclipse, can cause severe eye damage," said Zayed, adding that GBPH is urging parents and guardians to speak with their children about the potential dangers of staring at the sun, even for a brief period, during the eclipse.

GBPH will be providing schools with information and resources on eclipse safety in the near future, the release said.