Madison schools closing early for eclipse
MADISON – Madison City Schools will dismiss early on Aug. 21 because of the solar eclipse.
Superintendent Robby Parker announced that pre-kindergarten classes will dismiss at 10:30 a.m., followed by elementary schools at 11 a.m. and secondary schools (middle and high schools) at 11:45 a.m.
According to a NASA publication, the eclipse will reach Nashville, Tenn. at approximately 1:27 p.m. on Aug. 21.
“Due to the rarity of this event and the educational experiences that can be derived from it, Madison City Schools will dismiss early that day,” Parker said. “This is not a decision I’ve made lightly. In the interest of safety for our students and affording them an opportunity to experience this unusual natural phenomenon outside the structured environment of a school campus, I felt it best to release schools early.”
Parker stated two major reasons for the dismissal: safety and viewing availability for all students.
“We cannot ensure your child’s safety. There is no way we can ensure that glasses used by the student are safe,” Parker said. “Some have been ordered off of the Internet, some have been donated, and some have been purchased at the Space Center and at other sites.”
Vendors are selling numerous versions of fake glasses. “We have no way of ensuring your child’s eyes will not be damaged. I am not willing to take the chance of hoping all glasses brought in by the student or acquired by different schools by different staff members from different sites are all 100 percent safe,” he said.
In his second reason, Parker said MCS can’t offer the opportunity for 10,500 students to watch the eclipse. “We do not have 10,500 pairs of glasses (fake or real).”
“By dismissing, each parent can ensure their child’s safety and afford them the opportunity to watch the eclipse. I could not live with myself if a child (or numerous children) has permanent retina damage as a result of something that we did at school,” Parker said.
Parker hopes parents understand his reasoning. “I made this decision 11 days early so you could have time to prepare. I know some will disagree with this decision and I can accept that and any criticism that may come. What I could not live with is if one of our kids had permanent eye damage that occurred because I couldn’t make a tough decision,” he said.
Many parents want to take their child out of school for the entire day on Aug. 21 to view the eclipse out of town. “We will excuse the absence with a written note. It will not be counted as one of the child’s parent notes,” Parker said.