Mason County Schools prepares for the eclipse


MASON COUNTY — Millions will be looking to the skies Monday, as much of the United States experiences a total solar eclipse.

Only a partial eclipse will be visible locally, 80 to 90 percent, according to the NASA website. But because school will be in session, officials are taking steps to make sure Mason County students are given safe opportunities to view the phenomenon.

Superintendent of Schools Jack Cullen said parents wishing to sign their students out at noon to watch the eclipse will be able to do so, without unexcused absences for their children. The event will be considered “educational leave.” For students remaining at school, Cullen said he has spoken with principals on how to best handle the eclipse in a safe way.

Principals were told if the school has students going outdoors to watch the eclipse, the children must be equipped with the proper size and approved glasses, carrying the ISO number 12312-2, according to the superintendent. This is to prevent any possible eye damage.

So far, he said he has heard of only Roosevelt and New Haven elementary schools that have classes planning to actually watch with their students outside. Permission slips will be sent home for parents to sign if their child is a part of one of those classes.

A number of the elementary schools in the county will have no outdoor recess during the afternoon, Cullen said. Some schools are planning to watch the event online on classroom smart boards.

Cullen said the eclipse has caused a lot of chatter between school superintendents in the state on how to best handle it. Some counties are releasing early on Monday, while others are doing the same as Mason County.

Not only for students, but for anyone wanting to watch the eclipse, looking directly at the Sun is unsafe and could cause permanent damage to the eyes, according to the NASA website. Special purpose solar filters, “eclipse glasses” or solar viewers should be worn to protect the eyes. Regular sunglasses and homemade filters are not safe for looking at the Sun, NASA advises.

According to timeanddate.com, the eclipse will begin in Mason County at 1:06 p.m., peak at 2:33 p.m., and end at 3:55 p.m.

Our neighbors across the river

The Meigs County District Public Library, Pomeroy Branch, will be holding an eclipse event from 1-2:30 p.m. on Monday.

The library program will include information the science behind the eclipse as well as viewing the eclipse following the program. Glasses will be available at the library, as available, with one pair per family due to the expected large number of requests.

Bossard Memorial Library in Gallipolis will be holding an eclipse event from 1 to 3 p.m. where it will stream the eclipse live through the internet from NASA. Materials will be provided for families to craft pinhole viewers which allow individuals to safely view an eclipse shadow on the ground.

According to eclipse2017.nasa.gov, given the orbits of the Earth around the sun and the moon around the Earth, Oregon will be the first to see the eclipse as it then slides across the United States and leaves the face of the continental US on South Carolina’s coast. The next annular eclipse is expected to take place on Oct. 14, 2023 and will track from northern California to Florida. The last total solar eclipse viewed from the continental US was in February 1979.

The eclipse’s longest duration will be near Carbondale, Ill., where the sun will be completely covered for two minutes and 40 seconds, according to NASA. Eclipses happen because of a coincidence where the sun and moon are the same angular size. The sun is considered roughly 400 times wider than the moon but also 400 times farther away. Scientists say this is why they appear to be similar in size in the sky.

Dean Wright and Sarah Hawley contributed to this article.

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By Mindy Kearns

Special to the Register

Mindy Kearns is a freelance writer for Ohio Valley Publishing, email her at mindykearns1@hotmail.com.