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Ontario education minister ‘not comfortable’ with ending class early due to solar eclipse

Ontario’s education minister said he does not support a decision by a Toronto area school board to end classes early due to the upcoming solar eclipse.

Speaking at Queen’s Park on Monday, Stephen Lecce said that while he is in favour of school boards altering their PD days due to the rare event, he is “not comfortable” with decisions to close the schools themselves.

“Obviously, safety of children is most important,” he said.

“School boards have the prerogative to use PD days if they want. What I don’t support is closing schools without giving access to children to their educators.”

He noted that parents who have to work require additional alternatives.

Toronto school boards voted last month to change their PD day from April 19 to April 8 due to the eclipse. They cited the dangers of looking directly at the event but also safety considerations around traffic and commuting.

The York Region District School Board (YRDSB), however, said it could not change its PD days due to “contractual obligations” and “prior commitments.”

As such, YRDSB schools will be dismissing all elementary and secondary school students early.

“In York Region, we will experience effects of the eclipse between roughly 2:00 p.m. and 4:30 p.m., which coincides with the scheduled dismissal times for our schools,” officials said in a letter to parents.

“We are working with child care providers to determine their plans for the day. If you have questions about child care, please contact your child’s child care provider directly.”

The school board said they made the decision after hearing concerns about students being outside and inadvertently looking at the sun, as well as concerns about traffic and walking home in the dark.

Lecce said that he has “issued his expectation,” but has not issued a directive to the school board to change their plans.