Why some schools are closing for the April 8 total solar eclipse

States from Texas to New Hampshire are in the eclipse's path of totality.

April 4, 2024, 7:03 PM

"Eclipse Across America" will air live Monday, April 8, beginning at 2 p.m. ET on ABC, ABC News Live, National Geographic Channel, Nat Geo WILD, Disney+ and Hulu as well as network social media platforms.

Monday, April 8, is not a federal holiday, but for many students across the country, it will mean a day off from school.

Schools from Texas to New Hampshire have announced closures and early dismissals due to the historic total solar eclipse that will cast a shadow over parts of the United States on Monday afternoon.

In the U.S., the path of totality for the eclipse begins in Texas and will pass through Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine. Small parts of Tennessee and Michigan will also experience the total solar eclipse, according to NASA.

Why schools are closing comes down to a combination of logistics, safety and recognition of the eclipse as an historic event.

Here are three questions about the closures, answered.

1. Why does the eclipse present a safety issue for students?

The focus of the total solar eclipse is, of course, the sun, but looking at the sun during the eclipse can cause vision damage, including, potentially, permanent vision loss, according to the American Society of Retina Specialists.

Because the eclipse will occur in the afternoon on Monday, it will conflict with school dismissal times in many parts of the country, meaning students could be outside during the eclipse without proper eye protection.

According to NASA, the only time it's safe to look at the sun is "during the brief total phase of a total solar eclipse," called "totality," and only with specialized eye protection. Most people watching the eclipse will not see totality because it only occurs over a very narrow path.

PHOTO: Students at CW Harris Elementary School in SE Washington, D.C., Aug. 21, 2017, use their protective shades to watch the solar eclipse outside their school.
Students at CW Harris Elementary School in SE Washington, D.C., Aug. 21, 2017, use their protective shades to watch the solar eclipse outside their school.
Astrid Riecken/The Washington Post via Getty Images, FILE

NASA and groups like the American Society of Retina Specialists are urging people to wear solar-safe glasses in order to be able to safely view the solar eclipse.

The best option to find eclipse glasses is to either purchase them through an approved vendor, or to call your local library, astronomy club or a nearby university astronomy or physics department to see if they are distributing free eclipse glasses.

Warby Parker is also offering free glasses in store, while supplies last.

2. Why is the eclipse a logistical issue for schools?

The majority of school closures and early dismissals on Monday are taking place in schools near the 115-mile-wide path of totality that begins in Texas and stretches to Maine.

Cities and counties along that path are bracing for a tourism boom, including one county in Texas that issued a local disaster declaration in advance, as it anticipates its population of 400,000 people will double on Monday.

The amount of travel happening on Monday is expected to be equivalent to "50 simultaneous Super Bowls across the nation," with an estimated 4 million people traveling, Michael Zeiler, an expert solar eclipse cartographer, told ABC News.

The influx of people will mean heavier traffic, which can impact school bus and pick-up schedules, as well as additional stress on community services, like emergency services.

David Backler, a school superintendent in New Hampshire, one of the states in the path of totality, said the decision was made to close schools because the number of eclipse tourists in the area would put a "pretty big strain" on local schools.

"With the limited resources that we have and limited infrastructure, that was going to put a pretty big strain on us," Backler told WMUR-TV, an ABC affiliate station in New Hampshire. "And the timing specifically, it would be happening right when the school day was ending."

In other areas, some school facilities are being used as eclipse-viewing spots. Indiana University is closing several of its campuses Monday and hosting the Hoosier Cosmic Celebration featuring Janelle Monáe and William Shatner, according to the event website.

3. Why are some schools letting students view the eclipse elsewhere?

While some schools are turning the eclipse into a teachable moment and viewing it together, others are choosing to let families watch the eclipse together, on their own, acknowledging its historic nature.

The next total solar eclipse to occur in the contiguous U.S. won't be until August 2044 in Montana and North Dakota, and the next to span coast-to-coast is slated for 2045, according to NASA.

A Texas school district directly on the path of totality, the Ennis Independent School District, located south of Dallas, said it decided to cancel school Monday both because of the number of visitors to the area and because of staff and students wanting to watch the eclipse on their own.

"We anticipate a number of EISD staff members will choose to take off and many parents will elect to not send their children to school on that day in order to share the experience and activities with their families," the school district wrote on its website.

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