As educators worked on final plans for Monday’s viewing of the total solar eclipse, two Hall County schools were scrambling to find enough eclipse glasses after receiving word that the ones they had purchased had been recalled.
Hall County and Gainesville City school systems are extending the school day by one hour Monday because of the eclipse, which is expected to reach its maximum impact here around 2:36 p.m., according to reports.
Kevin Bales, assistant superintendent for teaching and learning, said Friday that Chestatee High and North Hall Middle schools both purchased glasses through Amazon that they later learned were not guaranteed by the manufacturer to meet safety requirements. Amazon has recalled the glasses.
“We had a few last-minute curve balls with some solar eclipse glasses being recalled,” Bales said. “We’ve had to game plan in places where we only had a limited number of glasses.”
Chestatee Principal Suzanne Jarrard said Friday she had to return about 1,000 of the glasses her school purchased because of the recall. She said the school has about 200-250 pairs that meet the requirements. The approximately 1,400 Chestatee students will go out to see the eclipse in groups of about 100 students at a time.
“We’re going to be OK,” she said. “We had planned the whole time not to take all of our students out anyway (at the same time). We were just taking small groups. We can make sure they can be supervised adequately. ... We’re going to rotate them out.”
North Hall Middle School Principal Tamara Etterling said the school received an email Thursday that the “manufacturer could not guarantee a rating system” for the 600 glasses North Hall had purchased. By Friday those glasses had been boxed up and shipped out.
Etterling put the word out about the problem and achieved success — 600 eclipse glasses that meet the safety requirements.
“Fortunately, our partners up at (North Hall) high school had extra glasses and so we haven’t had to change our plans,” she said. “I did have some extra partners at UNG and Georgia Tech who came through for me, so we will be able to view the solar eclipse with proper glasses on Monday. Safety is our No. 1 priority.”
Etterling said she is expecting about 200 of the school’s 850 students to be checked out early by parents.
“We’re expecting a lot of our students to be out viewing the eclipse with their families,” she said.
“Of course we do have a lot of students excited that they’re getting to stay and view it with us. We are providing a full academic day with all of the lessons in all content areas revolving around the solar eclipse.”
Both school systems are requiring parents to sign permission slips for their children to go outside to watch the eclipse because of safety concerns. In Hall County, all elementary school students will be involved in eclipse activities inside the school buildings for safety reasons, while parents can sign permission slips for middle and high school students. Students who take part in the eclipse activities inside will watch a live feed from NASA, which is flying the line of the expected total eclipse across the nation during the day.
“A few parents have said they want their child to watch it through a live feed which we are offering in the learning commons with supervised staff,” Etterling said. “There are varying opinions, but the majority of parents did want their their child to view it (outside) and are trusting us to keep them safe.”
She added that the school even had practice this week for the eclipse day.
At East Hall Middle, Assistant Principal Susan Pritchett said students will be broken up into small groups of 13-15 students. The groups will be watching the live NASA feed inside and go outside in rotating shifts of 3-5 students during what she called “an eclipse period,” which will run from 1:45 p.m. to 3:15 p.m. She said students will likely see the eclipse outside with glasses twice during the time period, “so they can kind of see the progression of the eclipse.”
The process was done to provide safety for the students, but it will also mean that only a few of the students will be outside when the eclipse has its greatest impact.
“That’s sort of unfortunate, but we just don’t feel comfortable taking all 900 out at one time,” Pritchett said.
The University of North Georgia’s Division of Professional and Continuing Education has donated about 900 pairs of eclipse glasses to East Hall Middle.
Gainesville City Schools allowed individual schools to decide how they would watch the eclipse. At least four elementary schools — Mundy Mill, Enota, Centennial and New Holland — will allow some students to watch the event outside with the approved eclipse glasses provided they have parental permission. All elementary students will be doing a variety of activities that will teach them about the eclipse whether they go outside to view it or not. Principals said students have been preparing for the big event during the week.
“This is a special day of learning,” said Mundy Mill Principal Crystal Brown. “All classes will discuss the eclipse and be able to at least view the shadow if the weather cooperates. We’ll have a special schedule during the eclipse to ensure students can be active participants in this historical event. Afterwards, we will use the time to continue teaching the standards that are part of our curriculum.”
At Gainesville Middle School, students will be taken out to the athletic fields starting around 2 p.m. and the students will watch the eclipse while wearing the eclipse glasses from 2:15 p.m. to 2:40 p.m. Sixth-graders will watch from the football field, seventh-graders from the baseball field and eighth-graders from the softball field.
Gainesville High School will have activity time from 1 p.m. to 4:25 p.m. Monday with eclipse activities led by the science department being one of the activities. The activity time options will also include clubs and other school-based organizations.
Monday will be the first day of the new school year for Riverside Military Academy, and students will be involved in eclipse activities from 1-4 p.m. School spokeswoman Adriane Seymour said the students will go to the Sandy Beaver Center where they will receive information from a science teacher about the eclipse and view the NASA feed. She said a small group of the cadets will travel north of the school where the eclipse is expected to be 100 percent in totality. Those students will have the eclipse glasses.
The University of North Georgia has canceled classes from noon to 4 p.m. Monday and will have a viewing party at the Dahlonega campus. On the Gainesville campus, about 300 pairs of the glasses will be given away to students who have a student identification card.