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South Fayette delays start of school year because of solar eclipse

| Wednesday, Aug. 16, 2017, 11:39 a.m.
This March 9, 2016, photo shows a total solar eclipse in Belitung, Indonesia. A solar eclipse on Monday, Aug. 21, 2017, is set to star in several special broadcasts on TV and online. PBS, ABC, NBC, NASA Television and the Science Channel are among the outlets planning extended coverage of the first solar eclipse visible across the United States in 99 years.
This March 9, 2016, photo shows a total solar eclipse in Belitung, Indonesia. A solar eclipse on Monday, Aug. 21, 2017, is set to star in several special broadcasts on TV and online. PBS, ABC, NBC, NASA Television and the Science Channel are among the outlets planning extended coverage of the first solar eclipse visible across the United States in 99 years.
This photo shows a 'diamond ring' shape during the 2016 total solar eclipse.
This photo shows a 'diamond ring' shape during the 2016 total solar eclipse.
This is a photo of full solar eclipse.
This is a photo of full solar eclipse.
A piece of foil with a small pinhole in the middle supported by poster board will create a homemade pinhole camera that can be used to view the solar eclipse.  Here, a light shined through the hole gives an idea of how small the eclipse might look if viewed on a flat surface.
Shane Dunlap | Tribune-Review
A piece of foil with a small pinhole in the middle supported by poster board will create a homemade pinhole camera that can be used to view the solar eclipse. Here, a light shined through the hole gives an idea of how small the eclipse might look if viewed on a flat surface.

The start of a new school year in the South Fayette Township School District has been delayed due to Monday's solar eclipse.

School board members Tuesday night approved pushing back the school year by one day — to Aug. 22 — for students after district leaders “reviewed and considered information regarding the upcoming” solar eclipse, Superintendent Bille Rondinelli said in an email to district families.

“In the best interest and for the safety of our students, the decision was made to delay the start of school by one day,” she said in an email to families.

The district instead will use Aug. 21 as an in-service day for staff. The day will be made up on April 27, Rondinelli said.

In an email to TribLIVE.com, Rondinelli cited a CNN segment where Dr. Christopher Quinn, president of the American Optometric Association, explained the possible retina damage if someone looks directly at the sun.

“When you look directly at the sun, the intensity of the light and the focus of the light is so great on the retina that it can cook it,” Quinn said in the segment.

With the eclipse expected to be seen in Western Pennsylvania just after 1 p.m. Monday through about 4 p.m., Rondinelli said the phenomenon “coincides with dismissal times for what would have been our first full day of school.”

The maximum eclipse — when 80 percent of the sun will be blocked locally — is expected at about 2:35 p.m.

“While keeping students indoors at recess time was an option, it is impossible to guarantee that children would not look directly at the sun during dismissal or during transport home,” she told TribLIVE.com in an email.

She said “multiple options were discussed” at Tuesday night's board meeting “and the only option that can guarantee the safety of our students was to delay the start date.”

Rondinelli said the district apologizes for any inconveniences due to the delay, but “the safety of our students and staff is our number-one priority.”

Bobby Cherry is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at rcherry@tribweb.com and on Twitter at @bc_trib. Stephanie Hacke is a contributing writer for the Tribune-Review.

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