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Solar eclipse: Toronto school boards change PA day date 'out of an abundance of caution'

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The Toronto District School Board (TDSB) will change the date of its upcoming professional activity day to coincide with a rare total solar eclipse.

During Wednesday’s board meeting, TDSB trustees voted in favour of a staff recommendation to move the April 19 PA day to April 8 “out of an abundance of caution.”

“We don’t really take into consideration celestial movements in our school year calendar,” TDSB spokesperson Ryan Bird said in an interview before the meeting, adding that the schedule for the academic year is typically planned more than a year in advance.

“A solar eclipse is a bit different [than a lunar eclipse], so we just want to make sure that everyone is staying safe.”

The TDSB joins the Toronto Catholic District School Board (TCDSB) and five other school boards in the Greater Toronto Area in rescheduling its PA day to April 8.

“There exists some danger to looking directly at the eclipse with the naked eye, as well as safety considerations pertaining to busing and traffic during the period of the eclipse and the resulting darkness at that time,” TCDSB Director of Education Brendan Browne said in a recommendation report.

“As such, it would be prudent for children not to be travelling home from school during the eclipse.”

TCDSB trustees approved the change during their board meeting on Tuesday.

Other boards that have made the switch include Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board, Peel District School Board, Durham District School Board, Halton Catholic District School Board, and Halton District School Board. On Thursday, Conseil Scolaire Viamonde announced that students at the French-language board will learn from home on April 8.

The timing of the rare celestial event, when the moon will blot out the sun for a few minutes, will start in Hamilton at approximately 3:18 p.m., according to the Canadian Space Agency, which is right around the time schools are dismissed for the day.

Although the Greater Toronto Area is not in the so-called path of totality, people in those areas will still see a “deep partial” view of the event, based on calculations by eclipse2024.org.

Proper eye protection is required for viewing the event, even if it is only a partial view, the Canadian Space Agency says.

How rare is the April 8 eclipse?

The last total eclipse visible from major Canadian cities occurred in the 1970s, and scientists say the next one of this magnitude won't be until 2079.

There was a total solar eclipse that crossed over North America in August 2017, but that one was only seen in the U.S.

"This is an extremely rare astronomical event," York University astronomer and professor Elaina Hyde told CTVNews.ca via email earlier this month.

"Only a small area of the Earth is going to be able to see the full solar eclipse and many people go their whole lives without ever viewing one.”

Specialized glasses can be purchased via the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada or watchers can craft their own solar eclipse projector with a cardboard box and a sheet of white paper.

The Canadian Space Agency warns that looking directly at the sun at any time without the proper gear can lead to partial or complete loss of eyesight. 

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