Start of school is unique for Central Texas children watching the eclipse

Cadence Layne and Cody Caciola demonstrate the correct way to look at the sun safely at St. Gabriel's Catholic School.

AUSTIN (KXAN) – Monday, Aug. 21 is only the fourth day of the school year for children at St. Gabriel’s Catholic School in Austin. After three days of going over school and class procedure, Monday is the first day lessons really resume, and this year has an exciting start: all 430 kids, kindergarten through 8th grade, are watching Central Texas’ partial solar eclipse together at 1 p.m.

St. Gabriel’s geared science classes all Monday morning toward learning about the eclipse. Cadence Layne, 8th grader at St. Gabriel’s, already likes studying atmospheric phenomena like comets and meteor showers in her spare time. She really likes the emphasis the school is putting on the solar eclipse. “It makes me so excited for the next one that comes because I hear that the next time it comes it will be a total eclipse for Austin.”

The school has prepared in advance and ordered solar-safe glasses for its students and faculty. Right after lunch, students headed outdoors and watched the sky for 20 minutes around the maximum part of the eclipse in Central Texas, where the sun will be 65 percent obscured by the moon at around 1:10 p.m.

Of course, many students walked into classrooms for the first day of the school year without realizing the amount of planning that teachers and staff have put into this event to make sure students are safe, but also have fun learning about this rare occurrence.

“First thing was to find relatable products that the kids could understand… learning about the solar eclipse and refreshing my mind. And finding books that are child-appropriate,” says Kathryn Meyeres, third-grade science teacher at St. Gabriel’s.

Student council members over at Westlake High School in Eanes ISD were in charge of quality control for their solar glasses. “I read a lot of articles about counterfeit sunglasses and so I made sure that the school was getting real ones,” says Matteo Brunel.

Westlake High also hosted an eclipse-themed pep rally out on the football field while the Chaparral dance team did a choreographed routine to Coldplay’s A Sky Full of Stars. 

Elsewhere in Central Texas, some schools in the Austin Independent School District celebrated the eclipse on the first day of the school year. Superintendent Paul Cruz is participating with the students at Palm Elementary School in southeast Austin.

Palm ES scheduled activities for kids to view the eclipse, but there was no district-wide policy in Austin on how to handle the eclipse viewing process. It is a liability for children to look at the sun without any visual aid during the eclipse since looking directly at the sun can cause permanent eye damage.

In Bastrop, students at elementary schools had to watch the totality from classrooms as it was streamed by NASA.

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