On August 21, 2017, Gwinnett County Public Schools (GCPS) will delay dismissal by one hour to help ensure the safe viewing of the eclipse and a safe dismissal of students.
On this day, all of North America will experience an eclipse of the sun. This means that Earth, the sun, and the moon, which all orbit in space in predictable paths, will align. The moon will move between the sun and Earth blocking the light of the sun. Thus, the moon will cast a shadow on Earth. Here in Gwinnett, we will experience a near total eclipse between 2:35 and 2:40 p.m. that will last approximately two minutes. This alignment of the sun, the moon, and Earth will mark the first time this phenomenon has occurred coast-to-coast in our country in nearly 100 years.
As dismissal for Gwinnett County Public Schools high school students occurs shortly after 2 p.m. and the first tier of elementary school students are released at 2:45 p.m. the district felt a one-hour delay in dismissal would allow for better supervision of students during the eclipse. NASA has issued guidelines for watching the eclipse that advise that children should be carefully supervised when using solar filters to view the eclipse. "GCPS has made the decision to dismiss one hour later than usual as a safety precaution, explains Dr. Jonathan Patterson, associate superintendent for Curriculum and Instructional Support. "It would be difficult to monitor students who are being dismissed or those who are riding on school buses during the eclipse. Ordinary sunglasses, even very dark ones, are not safe for looking at the sun. In addition to addressing safety concerns associated with the eclipse, the delay will provide more time for us to make this a special educational event for our students, allowing us to organize safe and engaging viewing experiences for students."