Local teachers’ union calling on school board to let students out early for solar eclipse

The local chapter of the Elementary Teachers’ Federation is calling on the Waterloo Region District School Board to change their plans for the upcoming solar eclipse next week.

Jeff Pelich, the president of the Elementary Teachers’ Federation Waterloo Region, said students would be let out between 3 p.m. and 4 p.m. on April 8, which would be right in the middle of the eclipse.

“So that means we will have a lot of unsupervised students who are leaving the school grounds who are walking home, who may not be able to have an adult there to keep a close eye on them,” said Pelich.

He added that of the 76 Ontario school boards, only 11 of them, including Waterloo Region will be open. The other 10 are up north and would not be as affected by the eclipse.

Region of Waterloo Public Health said looking at the eclipse without proper eye protection can result in retinal burns, blurred vision and loss of eyesight.

Last month, the Waterloo Region District School Board announced they would keep students in class during the eclipse, calling it a “once in a lifetime education experience.”

Pelich said they were disappointed in the board’s decision and they have been directed to educate students on the eclipse and the dangers. He noted that last week they began to hear reports that educators were being encouraged to “volunteer their time” on April 8.

“Our position is very clear that student wellbeing should not rely solely on the good will of employee volunteers,” said Pelich.

“The board should have taken every reasonable measure and they have not. Our firm belief is that this could have been accomplished by dismissing students just a couple hours early at the end of the day.”

570 meteorologist Jill Taylor said the expected weather for April 8 is sun and cloud with a high of 13. She said the weather could change over the next week, and that the temperature could drop as much as six degrees during the eclipse itself as well as changes in the wind.

“Even if its not raining, it may look like its raining on the radar and that could actually be bugs,” said Taylor.

Next week’s total solar eclipse will be the first total solar eclipse since 1925 and another one will not happen for 120 years. It is expected to begin just after 2 p.m. in Waterloo Region and ends at 4:30 that afternoon. The max eclipse is at 3:18 p.m. sharp.

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