District 117 taking safety precautions with today’s solar eclipse

By Blake Schnitker on August 21 at 7:12am

A once-in-a-lifetime celestial event is taking place today, as parts of west central Illinois will experience the first total eclipse of the sun in nearly forty years..

And while many local residents will observe the brief but rare event, area schools are ensuring the public that student safety remains their top priority.

Jacksonville School District 117 Superintendent Steve Ptacek issued a statement regarding the eclipse, given that it is taking place at a time when students are normally in class. Ptacek says that while the district wants to take advantage of the rare event and provide a quality learning experience, it is still very concerned about safety.

Studies conducted by scientists and optometrists warn that improper viewing of a partial eclipse can cause permanent eye damage. So to ensure a safe learning experience, Ptacek has provided a set of guidelines to each school in the district.

Only approved and supervised outdoor learning experiences will be permitted, otherwise, students will remain indoors during the eclipse. Parental permission is required for students in grades K-8 to participate in all approved and supervised outdoor learning experiences. And for high school students, parent permission forms will be an opt-out form for approved and supervised outdoor learning experiences.

For the district to authorize these outdoor learning experiences, schools are required to obtain approval from their principal, supply NASA-approved glasses, and provide extra adult supervision for the purpose of creating smaller student-adult ratios, approximately one adult for every five students.

Ptacek says this will inevitably result in the majority of students having to stay indoors during the eclipse because the district simply doesn’t have the manpower to ensure students aren’t observing the eclipse unsafely.

According to Ptacek, the district will approve written parent absence requests if parents with for their students to experience the event. Students who do leave for the eclipse are asked to either leave or be picked up by 1 p.m. JHS will not allow students to drive home after 1 p.m. until school is released.