NEARK Schools Prepare for Solar Eclipse

by Tucker Crain
Delta Digital News Service

JONESBORO – Northeast Arkansas high schools are taking the necessary precautions in preparation for viewing the solar eclipse on Monday, Aug. 21.

The eclipse, which is predicted to take place around 1 p.m., will be visible in the United States from coast-to-coast for the first time since 1918. This brings a new challenge to the school districts, which have not faced the prospect of viewing a potentially hazardous eclipse in recent memory.

The Valley View School District opted out of allowing the students to view the eclipse altogether. Select schools in the Jonesboro, Nettleton, Westside and Ridgefield Christian districts are allowing students to view the eclipse.

“No one will be outside watching the eclipse. Our district made the decision to stay inside and watch a livestream instead,” said David Goodin, Valley View High School principal. “We were worried about the glasses. They’re supposed to be one-size-fits-all, but maybe they don’t fit some students. Younger students may not use the glasses properly, or someone might take their glasses off and get hurt.”

Valley View decided to stream the eclipse instead of going outside to watch even after consent forms were sent home with students. Glasses purchased for the event will go unused.

“Our older students may be checked out by their parents to watch the eclipse with their own approved glasses, and that’s fine. This decision is really just for the general welfare of our student body,” Goodin said.

At Jonesboro Public Schools, all students will be supplied with glasses and allowed to watch the eclipse with an approved consent form.

“We purchased approved solar eclipse glasses for all the students and faculty in the Jonesboro Public Schools district, except for our kindergarten and pre-K students,” Carol Neves, Jonesboro Public School District’s Science, Technology, Engineering and Math specialist. “Every student has a permission slip to get signed by a parent or guardian to be able to watch it. If they don’t get it signed, we’ll still be streaming the event inside our buildings.”

Jonesboro Public Schools is the only district allowing all of its students to watch the solar eclipse. Nettleton, Westside and Ridgefield Christian are only allowing older students to watch, though “older” is different at every district.

“Our eighth-grade through 12th-grade students can view the eclipse. We have contacted local eye doctors and developed a safety plan for what type of glasses to use,” said Michael Graham, Westside High School principal. “We’re conducting a safety briefing before the event. We’ve had some concerns, but our consultations with the local specialists made us feel like students will be safe to watch.”

Ridgefield Christian will also allow seventh-grade students to watch.

“Our secondary students will be invited to view the event. Our glasses will be provided free of charge, but the students must have their consent form approved by a parent or guardian. All our younger students will watch a stream online,” said academic adviser Veronica Reeves.

While other schools secured enough glasses for all students to view the eclipse, the Nettleton School District only secured enough for certain classes.

“All of our science classes will be viewing the eclipse, and we’re trying to find enough glasses to get the entire school out there,” said Brian Carter, Nettleton High School principal. “The ninth through 12th-grade students who are in a science class during the eclipse will be able to go outside and watch it if they have their consent form signed by a parent or guardian.”

The path of the solar eclipse will show between 75-90 percent totality in Jonesboro and the surrounding areas. The totality in each area lasts around 2 minutes and should not be looked at without using approved glasses.