Solar eclipse factors in to date for first day of school for som - FOX Carolina 21

Solar eclipse factors in to date for first day of school for some Upstate districts

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Solar eclipse. (file/FOX Carolina) Solar eclipse. (file/FOX Carolina)
PICKENS, SC (FOX Carolina) -

The sun dictates when we rise and turn in for the day, but the rays could also determine when students begin the start of their school year. 

Thanks to a new law in South Carolina, school districts can start the 2017-2018 school year allow to allow schools to use the August solar eclipse as a learning opportunity.

Oconee County and Pickens County school districts have already made the decision to start early due to the cosmic event,

"Under the old state law, you couldn't start school before the third Monday in August. The third Monday of that week is August 21, that's the first day of the solar eclipse," John Eby, the Pickens County School District spokesperson said.

A new law suggests all public schools in the state are at liberty to start their academic year as early as August 17. It's all because of a rare solar eclipse. The bill signed by the governor at the end of February states South Carolina is in the path of the largest solar eclipse in North America since February 1978. The moon will block out the sun entirely for about a minute and a half. 

"Teachers that are big on science, big on astronomy, they are eager to sink their teeth into this," Eby said.

He adds the district was already eager to get an earlier start date. Now paired with a rare learning opportunity, the district has revised its 2017-2018 calendar to begin on the suggested date of Aug.17. 

On August 21, the date Pickens and Oconee Counties were originally planning to start the school year, a full solar eclipse will occur and cast darkness on the state around the time elementary schools are scheduled to dismiss.

"We've paired up with Clemson University, which is in our district. They've been very helpful to us. We're going to have protective eye wear for every student at that point in time," Eby said. "We're going to make sure every child is supervised, as well as we possibly can to make sure they don't look into the eclipse for too long. So we're going to incorporate it right in our educational program and make sure it's a learning experience for everybody."

Eby said the district has had heard strong reaction from parents about the earlier start date.

"Folks feel strongly a lot of different directions. Some folks are eager for it to be incorporated into learning that day. Some folks would like the whole day to be off. Some folks can't imagine taking off the whole day for that."
We spoke to parents on the phone who say between traveling and summer activities, it might cause some concern. Many school districts are not quite done finalizing next year's calendar, so the decision remains up in the air.

Oconee County Schools will also start the new school year on August 17.

“We are looking forward to providing a learning experience at the schools with this once in a lifetime experience of a full solar eclipse,” said Dr. Michael Thorsland, Superintendent of Oconee County Schools. “But we agree that should not happen on the very first day students return to school.”

“Having such an event happen on the first day of school would contribute to chaos at dismissal,” added Steve Hanvey, Assistant Superintendent of Operations for Oconee County Schools. “We are glad the legislature recognized the situation and provided leniency on the start date for next fall.”

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