Classes at Franklin schools will begin and end an hour late Monday to give students time to safely watch the solar eclipse.
With the first solar eclipse coming to the continental U.S. since 1979, Franklin school officials have spent the past several weeks debating how to handle the situation. Options ranged from canceling school for the day to not allowing younger students to watch the eclipse for fear of liability issues should one of them suffer eye injuries.
That plans needed to be changed for Monday was certain. The solar eclipse will reach its maximum point of covering 92 percent of the sun at 2:25 p.m. in Franklin, which happens to be right when students are being released from school into their buses, a situation where it would have been impossible to monitor them to make sure they were looking at the eclipse safely, Franklin schools superintendent David Clendening said.
Clendening said he was leaning toward canceling school and letting parents determine how much of the eclipse their child sees, but after discussions with his principals, he chose a compromise that would keep kids in classes during the maximum point of the eclipse.
Classes at all Franklin schools will start and end one hour late. Parents who typically drop their children off for childcare before school will still be able to do so at the regular times. To watch the eclipse, students will need a signed permission slip from their parents. Those permission slips will be sent home with students this week and will also be available online at the schools’ websites. Along with the permission slips, the schools will also be sending home information sheets about the types of glasses needed to safely view the eclipse.
For other local schools with student release times close to the eclipse, school staff will be making sure students are informed about the risks of looking directly at the sun during an eclipse, but no schedule changes are planned.
At Greenwood schools, some afternoon recesses will be moved indoors and after school athletics actives will also begin inside until the eclipse is over, Greenwood schools superintendent Kent DeKonick said.
High school students get out of class at 2:30 p.m., just after the peak of the eclipse.
“We will trust parents that they let kids know how to handle the eclipse, and the high school principal will make an announcement as well,” DeKonick said.
Clark-Pleasant Schools, which has middle and high school students getting out of classes at 2:45 p.m. and 2:50 p.m., is also not making any schedule changes, spokesperson John Venter said.
For Franklin students, delaying classes and keeping students in school during the eclipse was the best possible solution, school board member Darren Thompson said.
“Canceling school isn’t good for an educational event,” he said.
The partial eclipse will last from 12:58 p.m. until 3:49 p.m. in Johnson County. Franklin students will be dismissed from classes at 3:25 p.m. While it is still unsafe to look at the sun at that time, the sun will be bright enough again that students are unlikely to do so, Clendening said.
The late exit means some students on buses may not be home until after 5 p.m., but dealing with that problem is far better than worrying about a kid getting injured from looking at the eclipse incorrectly, school board member Bryan Wertz said.
Plans for the eclipse vary by school. At the high school, any student that has brought a permission slip and the appropriate glasses to view the eclipse will be allowed outside to watch it. Some schools, such as Webb and Creekside elementaries, have purchased glasses through fundraisers. Other schools don’t have any plans to watch the eclipse outdoors, but could allow students with the glasses and a permission slip to go outside as long as there are enough staff to supervise them.
Students who stay inside during the eclipse will be able to still watch it live on the NASA website and participate in other science activities, Clendening said.
Clendening said he is confident that school can make this a safe experience for the students.
“If I didn’t feel comfortable, I would have canceled classes,” he said.
For Clark Pleasant students, each elementary school will be providing glasses as long as kids have a signed permission slip from their parents, Venter said.
The Franklin school board is looking at this year as a test run, as in only seven years Franklin will be directly in the path of a total eclipse. Clendening said he’ll be keeping an eye on how things go for schools to the south of Indiana that are in the path of the totality, many of which are closing for the day.