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Solar eclipse 2017 countdown: Are schools half-empty today as parents keep kids home to watch?

School staffs, is anyone in class today?  Or, is there rampant eclipse-itis as parents keep children home to watch the eclipse, the  first total solar eclipse  to cross the country coast to coast in nearly 100 years?

I talked to several parents over the weekend who were keeping their children home. Many were heading out-of-town to find better viewing ground for the eclipse. Others were compromising and picking up their kids early to watch it. (Parents explained they were traveling to the "best place to view the eclipse." That included towns in South Carolina, Kentucky, Tennessee and Georgia. How many best places are there? I am hoping my front yard is one of them.)

Some schools, including the elementary around the corner from me, are holding special afternoon programs and bought eclipse-viewing glasses for students. But other schools are not risking the liability of eye damage. (Coweta Schools bought 24,000 glasses for their students and staff but the glasses turned out to be the ones recalled by Amazon.)

I understand the concerns of escorting schoolchildren onto a field to watch the eclipse. I would not like to be corralling younger children to keep on their protective glasses, although some schools wisely recruited parents to help with that. I talked to young moms about watching the eclipse with toddlers. One joked about duct taping the protective eyewear on her rambunctious 3-year-old.

I would hate to have kids miss this rare cosmic treat. (My son starts classes at Georgia Tech today, but told me his afternoon class was canceled so students could watch the eclipse with glasses provided by Tech.)

A reader told me this morning her daughter is a teacher, and half of her fourth grade class is absent today. Some school districts in prime viewing areas chose to close today. Those heavily impacted school districts had two considerations, enabling their students to witness the eclipse and avoiding their school buses being caught in what could be a traffic nightmare as eclipse gazers head home this afternoon.

Was there a better way to deal with this?

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About the Author

Maureen Downey has written editorials and opinion pieces about local, state and federal education policy since the 1990s.