The Woolwich Observer

Public schools to close Monday due to eclipse

- Julian Gavaghan

WATERLOO REGION’S PUBLIC SCHOOL BOARD infuriated parents yesterday by suddenly changing their solar eclipse plans and forcing children to stay home this Monday amid safety fears.

There will also be no classes on Wednesday due to a planned PD day for teachers that is still going ahead.

The board had previously declined to follow the region’s Catholic schools and several other education authoritie­s in southern Ontario and switch their PD day to April 8.

So now parents of public school children will be forced to find last-minute childcare plans for two days next week instead of just one.

One mother, Ashley Waerea, who has a daughter in Grade 2 at Riverside Public School in Elmira, was furious when she heard the news.

“The school board had weeks, even months, to organize this and now they’re just changing plans at the last minute. It’s very annoying,” she said.

“I’m lucky that I work from home, but a lot of other parents are now going to have to take two days off work or find some other childcare option all with little warning.

“Why didn’t they just have the PD day on Monday? It’s ridiculous.”

A statement released by the Waterloo Region District School Board acknowledg­ed the disruption their change of plans would cause.

“The decision has been made after listening to and reflecting on further feedback from the WRDSB community, including staff and families.

“Concerns for student safety have always been at the forefront of the decision-making for this day.

“The initial decision to have a regular school day was one we felt was possible, given the safety protocols we were prepared to implement.

“This would have allowed for an exciting once-in-a-lifetime learning opportunit­y. “We also clearly communicat­ed that families had the option to keep their children at home for the day or have them leave school prior to regular dismissal time.

“From the beginning, considerat­ion was given for a shortened school day; however, this was not possible due to challenges with student transporta­tion and significan­t safety concerns, among other factors, ensuring crossing guards would be available.

“We also tried to factor in the impact for many of our families who could not take time off work or did not have access to childcare.”

The statement added: “We recognize the challenges this change for April 8 may cause some families, and are especially sorry about those who will need to make alternativ­e child care arrangemen­ts.”

The board did not explain why they have decided to keep their PD day on Wednesday, which also coincides with the Islamic festival of Eid, and not move it to Monday.

Before yesterday, different public schools in the region were free to tailor their own plans for Monday, when a once-in-a-lifetime solar eclipse will be visible across much of southern Ontario and won’t be seen again here until 2144.

Despite the spectacle being an opportunit­y for students to learn about astronomy and use pinhole cameras made from punctured sheets of card to safely view it, many schools in the region decided to keep children stuck indoors.

In Waterloo Region, the window of time where the sun is more than 90 per cent covered will be about 15 minutes, from approximat­ely 3:10 p.m. to 3:26 p.m., with the peak at 3.18 p.m., which is around when most elementary students go home.

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