Local school boards change April PA day due to solar eclipse

WELLINGTON COUTY – Both the Upper Grand District School Board and the Wellington Catholic District School Board are rescheduling an upcoming Professional Activity (PA) day from April 19 to April 8.

The decision to reschedule is due to potential safety and supervision concerns related to a rare total solar eclipse set to occur during school dismissal hours, from 2 to 4:30pm, on April 8.

Both boards consulted with the Ministry of Education and Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health and considered all options prior to making this change, officials say.

“The safety and well-being of our students is our top priority,” stated the Catholic board’s director of education Michael Glazier in a Feb. 13 press release.

“After reviewing the timing of this event, which will peak at the time of dismissal and while students are traveling home and considering the potential risks to students and level of supervision of children at that time, the decision was made to move the April [PA day].”

“This rare event offers a great opportunity for learning with students,” added Upper Grand’s director of education Peter Sovran.

“We will continue to work with the Ministry of Education and our local public health unit to provide safety education and learning opportunities about the eclipse in the lead-up to the event.”

School board officials say the Ministry of Education has encouraged school boards to prioritize safety in such unique circumstances.

Eclipse presents risk

At the Feb. 7 board of health meeting, Medical Officer of Health Dr. Nicola Mercer noted it only takes a few seconds of looking at the sun during an eclipse to damage your eyes.

“It’s really important to spread the message on how to safely observe the solar eclipse,” she said.

There are eclipse glasses that guarantee a prescribed safety standard. So be sure what you’re using is legitimate, she said, and not a cheap knock-off.

Sunglasses won’t work, nor will a handheld solar viewer. And don’t look through a camera to take a photo, she said.

“You cannot, not even with safety lenses. The camera concentrates the solar rays and will burn through the safety lens,” Mercer explained.

Children will need extra supervision to ensure they don’t look at the sun, not even for a second.

Mercer said there are ways to enjoy the eclipse, however. It will be livestreamed and that’s perhaps the safest way.

Pinhole projectors also work. They can be homemade and essentially what you see is the reflection of the eclipse. But be sure to make it and use it properly.

“With these, you see it by looking down at the ground,” she said.

“Never look up. We have to be extremely mindful to ensure we don’t damage our eyes.”