The Muscogee County School District announced Friday special arrangements to handle safety concerns during the Aug. 21 solar eclipse.
MCSD’s elementary schools will release students at noon that day because the regular dismissal time of 2:30 p.m. will be near the maximum eclipse for Columbus, according to the district’s news release.
Shawn Cruzen, executive director of the Columbus State University Coca-Cola Space Science Center, says on his tips sheet that, in Columbus, the Moon will start blocking part of the Sun at 1:05 p.m. and will stop blocking part of the Sun at 4:03 p.m. The maximum eclipse in Columbus will be 92 percent at 2:37 p.m., Cruzen says.
The closest location to Columbus to observe the total solar eclipse’s narrow path will be in northeast Georgia. Because the eclipse in Columbus will be partial, it isn’t safe to observe without proper eye protection, Cruzen says.
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So MCSD’s early dismissal for elementary school students is “to ensure all students, parents and bus drivers are off the road during most of the span of the eclipse,” the district’s news release says. “All afternoon bus routes for elementary school buses will be adjusted 2½ hours earlier than normal. Students scheduled for the St. Elmo program will remain at their home schools.
“There will be no change to the breakfast schedule and bag lunches will be served prior to dismissal. All after-school programs will operate in those elementary schools that have them and students will remain in the building until 4:00 p.m.”
The district’s middle schools and high schools, which dismiss students later in the day, “will operate under their normal schedules with outdoor activities scheduled inside,” the news release says. “Extra-curricular activities for the middle and high schools will operate as normal due to their later release times.”
MCSD superintendent David Lewis says in the news release, “Student safety is always paramount in our decision-making process. After carefully reviewing the various options available, it was determined that the early release of elementary schools was the least disruptive and most familiar to our parents and community.”
Other local districts
The Ledger-Enquirer asked the superintendents in Phenix City and Harris, Chattahoochee, Russell and Lee counties what their school districts will do differently on solar eclipse day. ChattCo superintendent David McCurry was the only one to respond before deadline.
ChattCo will release nearly all of its students early on Aug. 21: elementary at 11 a.m. and middle/high at noon. The daycare center will maintain regular hours but keep children indoors during the eclipse, McCurry said in a memo to the school system.