School districts finalizing plans for day of solar eclipse

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Schools around the Bay Area are gearing up for next week’s historic solar eclipse.

The prime viewing time for Monday's event will be 2:49 p.m. in the Bay Area, which will experience a partial eclipse, not a full one.

Hillsborough County will excuse students whose parents want to keep them home, but they have to provide a note. But at Buckhorn Elementary in Valrico, Ken Davis' 5th-grade class prepares for watching the sky together.

And the school is inviting students and their families to safely watch this once in a lifetime event.

"I just think this is a great opportunity, it really is a historic event," said Davis. "It's a chance to really engage those students and get them interested in science and especially the space sciences."

Buckhorn Elementary is giving away 200 pairs of safe solar glasses to those who attend its after-school event at 2 p.m. Monday. It's an early release day in Hillsborough County, but Davis wanted to put together a special learning opportunity for students and their families.

"We're encouraging our students here to be learners today and leaders tomorrow," said Davis. "This is a great opportunity to light that fire for science in them, to want to learn more about science and eventually, possibly grow up and be a science leader."

According to school officials, scheduled outdoor activities will move indoors for three hours between 1:15 p.m. and 4:15 p.m. Some outdoor eclipse lessons will require safety measures, including ISO Certified solar eclipse glasses. The safe solar glasses are like welding glasses. They block 99% of all light.

Information shared through the Hillsborough County Public Schools website details options for parents and safety measures for students.

"If you do not want your child to be a part of any outdoor eclipse plans, please let your school know in advance. If you want your child to view the eclipse at home, you can pick them up early for a half-day or keep your child at home that day — it will be an excused absence with a note from a parent."

The website also includes instructions for building an eclipse viewer from items at home.

"This is a once in a lifetime opportunity," said Tanya Arja, spokesperson for Hillsborough County Schools. "We want families to be able to share that. If there are parents out there that want to share this with their children and take them to another part of the country that maybe you can see the eclipse a little bit better, or if they want to do something at home, and watch it on TV or on the internet, we want to give them that opportunity."

In Manatee County, the school district issued a safety advisory to parents, students and employees on Tuesday. All outdoor activities between 1 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. will be moved indoors. Outdoor activities may resume after 4:30 p.m. Bus and car riders will be indoors until their buses or cars arrive.

School officials ask for parents to speak to their children about the dangers of looking directly at the sun. Viewing of the eclipse will be viewed indoors with online streaming options.

Polk County issued guidance and plans very similar to Hillsborough County.

"The eclipse poses numerous learning opportunities, but also several dangers. Looking directly at the sun during an eclipse, even for a short time, can cause permanent vision damage," a district statement noted.

Other counties have not finalized or released their plans for the day of the eclipse.