Four Toronto-area school boards reschedule upcoming PA days due to solar eclipse risks

The 2024 total solar eclipse and its potential risks have forced at least four school boards west of Toronto to reschedule their professional activity days in April, according to officials.

In announcements published this week, Peel District School Board and Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board said the previously planned PA day on May 17 will now take place on April 8, when the celestial event will blot out the sun across eastern Canada for a few minutes.

“…There are risks associated with viewing a solar eclipse,” the school boards said in matching news releases, citing the Canadian Space Agency’s guidance. “Looking directly at the sun, without appropriate protection, can lead to severe eye damage or loss of eyesight, even during an eclipse.”

The boards said that because the eclipse will occur around the same time students are dismissed, moving the PA day to April 8 will “ensure that students will not be outdoors during” that time.

Last week, Halton District School Board and Halton Catholic District School Board also jointly announced that they were moving their scheduled April 22 PA Day to April 8. The boards said the decision was made in consultation with student transportation services.

“By rescheduling the PA Day to coincide with the eclipse, we mitigate possible student​​​ transportation and safety concerns and challenges for families that could arise as a result of the darkness that would be experienced while students are being dismissed from school,” the boards said in a statement.

CTV News Toronto has reached out to school boards in Toronto to see if similar changes are being made.

According to the Canadian Space Agency, the total solar eclipse will start in Hamilton at 3:18 p.m. and last 1 minute and 50 seconds.

Although Peel Region and Toronto are 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.

“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.”

View full-screen version of the interactive map by Esri Canada

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

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

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.

With files from Shannon Carranco and Daniel Otis

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