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Why some schools across the country are closing for the solar eclipse

Yes, the solar eclipse is a cool learning opportunity, but traffic and safety are two concerns some school districts have.

Why are some schools closing for the eclipse on April 8? A rare total solar eclipse will cross North America on that day, and a number of schools across the country will be closed. We did some digging to find out why.

This total solar eclipse — which won't occur again for 20 years — will cut a 115-mile-wide path across 15 U.S. states. It will start a little after 12 p.m. Central Time in areas of Texas and after 2 p.m. Eastern Time in Pennsylvania, New York and parts of New England.

Make sure you have protective eye gear to see the eclipse in all its glory!

The solar eclipse can be a terrific learning opportunity: New York State, for example, has created a web page with educational resources around the eclipse, and even ways for teachers to tie the eclipse to state learning standards in every subject, from art to math.

But a lot of schools have reasons for keeping kids home that day. Here's why some schools have opted to close for the solar eclipse.

Why are schools closing for the eclipse?

Some schools, like New York state's Syracuse City School District cite general "safety risks" as a concern. However, staff is expected to report to work on a half-day schedule.

One Pennsylvania school district was slightly more detailed in their assessment of safety concerns. In a letter to parents, the Pine-Richland School District, just outside of Pittsburgh, explained that because the eclipse is expected to occur during dismissal, "the potential is significant for students to be tempted to view it without proper safety precautions while exiting the school building or while getting off of the school bus."

According to the Carnegie Science Center, the maximum eclipse will occur at 3:17 p.m. in Pittsburgh.

Erie, Pennsylvania schools are also closed, but their public relations coordinator, Erica Erwin, cited a slightly different reason. Because Erie is in the path of totality, the city expects to have a significant number of visitors. "To help mitigate what will likely be unprecedented travel and traffic challenges, that day will be a non-attendance day," Erwin shares. Teachers will have a professional development day.

The path of totality includes parts of Texas. The Ennis Independent School District, located south of Dallas, noted on their website that the city is predicting as many as 200,000 visitors. They also anticipate that "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."

As a result, schools will be closed.

Colleges are affected, too

Some colleges are also changing their schedules to accommodate this natural phenomenon.

Kent State University in Ohio has an entire page of its website dedicated to the eclipse, with a countdown clock, event listings, eye safety info and more. Again, due to the high number of expected visitors, in-person classes are cancelled. Online or remote classes may proceed, however.

Adam White, executive director of communications at the University of Vermont, says that "scheduled classes may limit the opportunities for engagement with this integrative learning opportunity." Therefore, the school is designating April 8 as a day of "alternative instruction" in which "faculty will be able to select from a range of opportunities for integrative learning and alternative instruction related to the solar eclipse."

However, if losing a day of instruction will hurt the experience of certain labs and seminars, faculty members will be able to "opt out" and hold classes as scheduled, he says.