On Monday, April 8, a total solar eclipse will be visible across the United States, and here on the SouthCoast, we can expect about 90 percent totality.

The eclipse is expected to begin shortly after 2 p.m. and last until about 4:30 p.m., with the peak occurring around 3:30 p.m.

That means the eclipse will be happening right around the time SouthCoast students are wrapping up their school day, being dismissed and traveling home.

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Different school departments are handling the eclipse in different ways as a result, with the major concern being permanent eye damage that can be caused if you look directly at the eclipse without using proper eye protection.

For example, the Warwick, Rhode Island school department opted for an early dismissal for students on April 8 out of safety concerns, sending students home two hours early.

“Our Warwick Administration Team has reviewed the information in regards to this event. Due to the changes in lighting conditions caused by the eclipse, as well as a potential eye safety risk, we will be releasing students in all schools two hours prior to their usual scheduled release time,” Superintendent Lynn Dambruch said in a letter sent home to parents this week, as reported by WPRI.

On the flip side of that, WCVB reported that the Dighton-Rehoboth Regional School District will keep students inside their classrooms during the eclipse.

"A lot of our young students are playful and they enjoy one another's company. We just don't want to run the risk of someone inadvertently knocking somebody's glasses off,” Dighton-Rehoboth Superintendent Bill Runey told WCVB.

READ MORE: Massachusetts Vision Experts Issue Warning Ahead of Solar Eclipse

So what are some SouthCoast school departments doing about the eclipse? It seems most want to give students the opportunity to experience the event, while also keeping them safe and ultimately allowing parents to make the decision about when their children should be released from school.

Freetown-Lakeville Public Schools’ Eclipse Plan

“We have an extensive plan that provides learning opportunities K-12 as well as providing protection at all levels for this once-in-a-lifetime educational experience,” Alan Strauss, Superintendent of Schools for the Freetown-Lakeville Regional School District, told WBSM.

Director of Curriculum Teri Fleming said the department had organized over 100 parent volunteers “to provide additional adult support for our students to safely experience the eclipse.”

“Due to the timing, many of our elementary students will be on the bus or traveling home at full eclipse time. Prior to dismissal our students will be able to spend time viewing and monitoring the changing stages of the eclipse for ‘Notice & Wonder’ experience discussions that have already started in the classrooms, and will continue afterward.”

Fleming also said students at both Freetown-Lakeville Middle School and Apponequet Regional High school were able to sign up to attend eclipse watch parties on campus.

“(Parent or guardian) permission to participate is required, and for those students that are not going outside there is an inside viewing live cam that will be accessed,” Fleming said.

Fleming said Athletic Director Jim Cabucio also communicated with Apponequet opponents to adjust game times for Monday.

“This allows for athletes to safely participate in viewing the full eclipse and then play their games,” she said.

Old Rochester Regional School District’s Eclipse Plan

Old Rochester Superintendent Michael Nelson shared with WBSM a copy of the email he sent out to parents and the school community ahead of the eclipse.

“The schools have acquired solar-viewing glasses, which will be available at each building for students or staff who wish to have them,” the email reads.

“If you have any concerns about your child taking the bus or walking home Monday afternoon, they may be picked up directly from their school,” the email reads. “Please contact your child’s building principal with any questions or concerns.”

Acushnet Public Schools’ Eclipse Plan

Acushnet Schools Superintendent Dr. Paula Bailey sent WBSM a copy of the letter sent home to families and the required permission slip for students to take part in eclipse viewing activities.

“Our educators will be teaching about the eclipse and there will be an opportunity for students to view the eclipse, weather permitting, for a brief period of time (approximately 10 minutes),” the letter reads. “The Acushnet Parent Teacher Organization (PTO) has generously agreed to purchase a pair of solar viewing glasses for each student to ensure a safe viewing experience.”

The permission slip also acts as a liability waiver, “releasing the Town of Acushnet and the Acushnet Public Schools and their respective employees from and against any and all liability, loss, damage, costs, claims and/or causes of action aspiring out or related to my son/daughter’s participation in this activity.”

Any students that did not return a signed permission slip by April 1 will remain in their classroom.

Bailey’s letter also states that “if any families are not feeling comfortable with their children riding the bus or walking home due to eye safety concerns, we are offering alternatives. Students can either be picked up early from school or use private transportation.”

Dartmouth Public Schools’ Eclipse Plan

Dartmouth Schools Superintendent Dr. June Saba-Maguire said the department has communicated with families and staff regarding the eclipse.

“Several teachers are teaching lessons about the solar eclipse,” she said. “In some cases, using recommended safety precautions, students will participate in teacher-led activities related to the eclipse.”

She said student dismissal will take place at regular times.

Westport Public Schools’ Eclipse Plan

Lori Melo, Executive Assistant to the Superintendent and School Committee in Westport, told WBSM that student dismissal will occur at regular times, but there is one extra precaution the department is taking.

“We will be holding after school practices indoors during the eclipse hours,” she said.

New Bedford Public Schools’ Eclipse Plan

New Bedford Schools Superintendent Andrew O’Leary sent an email out to the school community with a list of “Dos and Don’ts” in regards to the eclipse, along with links to additional information for safe viewing from the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and from NASA.

The “Do’s” include providing proper eye protection, educating children about not looking directly into the sun during the eclipse without that protection, supervising them during the eclipse to ensure they are using it, and taking advantage “of this educational opportunity to teach your children about the science behind solar eclipses and the significance of this natural phenomenon.”

The “Don’ts” include not allowing children to look directly at the sun without eye protection, assuming regular sunglasses or homemade filters are safe, or downplaying eye safety during the eclipse.

NBPS confirmed it has enough eclipse viewing glasses for every student in the district. Schools will distribute them on Monday.

According to NBPS spokesperson Arthur Motta, "The glasses are approved 2024 - AAS, ISO & CE Certified for all ages. Lab tested, they exceed all safety standards. CE and ISO-certified to meet ISO 12312-2:2015(E) and certified by the AAS (American Astronomical Society).”

We will update this story if any more school departments provide us information on their eclipse plans.

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