Local school systems decide schedule for Aug. 21 solar eclipse


By Collin Brooks

The Johnson City School System and the Washington County School System have both decided their course of action for the solar eclipse that is taking place across the United States on Monday, August 21, although each plan is different.

The Washington County School System has decided to dismiss students at 11:45 a.m. They are encouraging students to go to downtown Jonesborough or their homes to view the solar eclipse. In Jonesborough, they will be having an Eclipse Block Party with arts and crafts, live music, craft vendors, celestial face painting and an eclipse talk with Dr. Richard Ignace.

“We really debated on the best measures for this event and we felt like allowing the students to watch such a historic event with their family was the best thing for us to do,” Washington County Director of Schools Kimber Halliburton said. “We went back-and-forth, but at the end, we felt like dismissing early was the best decision for us.”

The Johnson City School System has used the opportunity for what they call a “teachable moment” to help increase science literacy for the system’s students.

However, the system stressed, if parents are interested in pulling their children from class, the absence will not be unexcused, nor will a family have to use a personal day for their students.

The city schools will be utilizing a variety of resources developed by classroom teachers, NASA, and other sources appropriate for grade levels.  Each JC school will provide students opportunities to participate in the eclipse phenomena. Teachers across our district are working diligently to align the learning experiences to their grade level science standards.

Students in PreK-8th grade will be receiving permission slips to be signed by their parents in order to view the eclipse, while Parents and students at Science Hill have the option to opt out of watching the eclipse.

All of the students and faculty who wish to observe the eclipse will be provided with the proper eyewear, as schools have secured the approved glasses that are suggested in order to safely view the solar eclipse.

Since the eclipse will happen around 2:36 p.m. in Johnson City, the school district developed a plan with Johnson City Transit to hold buses at Science Hill, Liberty Bell and Indian Trail until 2:45 p.m. The delay will be approximately 5 to 7 minutes from the time the buses usually start loading students.

The system said they had several requests from parents to not dismiss early, because parents were concerned about not having childcare for the afternoon.

“This delayed dismissal will ensure that students are under adult supervision and neither students nor employees are on the roadways during the time of the eclipse,” the release said. “Safety is our first priority. Looking at an eclipse without proper eyewear may cause permanent eye damage. This delayed dismissal will ensure that students are under adult supervision and neither students nor employees are on the roadways during the time of the eclipse.”

The eclipse is set to cross the area before 3 p.m. on August 21 and it will be the first time that a total solar eclipse has passed through Tennessee since 1869.


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