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Updated: School’s out for NFSB students during total eclipse

Valley students will be able to watch the total solar eclipse from their own backyards on
April 8. The New Frontiers School Board (NFSB) has announced that all elementary and
secondary schools will be closed that day as a preventive measure.

A solar eclipse is a rare astronomical phenomenon, and looking at the eclipse during the
different phases without proper eye protection can result in permanent eye damage or
“solar retinopathy,” where the retina is burned by the brightness of the sun. The moon is
expected to cross paths with the sun between 2:14 and 4:36 p.m. on April 8, which coincides
directly with the period during which most students will be dismissed from school.

NFSB director general Michael Helm confirmed the decision to make April 8 a pedagogical
day in a communication sent to all parents on March 12. Helm explains that the decision
was made because the board “cannot ensure close supervision during student dismissal,
and because we are concerned for the safety of our students who may be tempted to watch
the solar eclipse without proper eye protection.”

Helm says the board worked through several scenarios to keep the schools open, but the
timing of the eclipse made this too difficult. “We feel that this is the right decision based on
all the information,” said Helm, noting the Ministry of Education was supportive of any
decision so long as it maximized school days. “We had one more pedagogical day available,
so this meant we could make the move,” he explains. As a result, a conditional ped day
scheduled for May 10 will now become a regular school day.

School daycare services at all NFSB elementary schools will remain open throughout the
day.

The Huntingdon Adult Education and Community Centre in Huntingdon, as well as the
Chateauguay Valley Career Education Centre in Ormstown and the NOVA Career Centre in
Chateauguay will all remain open on April 8. Helm says the centres will be able to adjust
schedules so students can avoid driving during the eclipse.

The announcement, which was posted to social media, generated over 185 comments, and
was shared over 195 times by parents who were either frustrated over the decision or
pleased with the board’s concern for their children’s safety.

Citing similar safety concerns, the Lester B. Pearson, Sir Wilfred Laurier, English Montreal,
and Riverside school boards have all cancelled scheduled classes on April 8, as well as many
French school centres across the province.

All NFSB schools will be providing students with certified solar eclipse glasses prior to April 8
so students can experience the astronomical event safely from home.

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