School in Lee’s Summit has been canceled for the total solar eclipse on Monday, the Lee’s Summit School District announced Wednesday afternoon.
Parents were notified by text message, and a notice was placed on the district’s website.
“The decision is based on two factors,” the notice reads, “concerns related to long-term vision safety and supervision of groups of students during outdoor viewings as well as the growing number of families and staff members expressing interest in traveling to the nearby path of totality for this momentous event for our area.”
As a result, the notice said, the district calendar would change, with the last day of school moving from May 17 to May 18.
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The Lee’s Summit district is the first large public district in the Kansas City area to cancel Monday’s classes. Most school districts inside and outside the eclipse’s 70-mile-wide path of totality have long planned to have classes, with special science, history and other lesson plans to coincide with the eclipse.
Because of an expected crush of people, schools in Atchison, Kan., St. Joseph and other cities north of Kansas City that are close to the center of the eclipse path of totality will also be out for the day.
Lee’s Summit district spokeswoman Janice Phelan said the number of parents and staff who wanted to view the eclipse, as well as concerns from medical professionals, motivated the decision.
The district had said earlier this week that it had purchased close to 21,000 pairs of eclipse shades from the Missouri Optometric Association for more than 18,000 students as well as all staff members The glasses, certified as safe for viewing, cost 33 cents each, or about $6,900.
“We are giving them to students and staff on Friday,” Phelan said.
Reaction on social media Wednesday ranged from relief to frustration. Some people had worried that teachers with larger classrooms would struggle to make sure that young children did not remove protective eye gear during the eclipse. Others were frustrated by the day off, and voiced concerns about finding childcare under short notice.
Some schools have grappled with the question of whether to cancel classes, as many of them — including schools in Raytown, Shawnee Mission, Olathe, Blue Valley and Lee’s Summit — lie outside the eclipse’s path of totality.
Although students in those districts would view an eclipse, their locations outside the path of totality — meaning the place where the moon will be seen to totally cover the face of the sun — would provide them a view of a 99.9 percent partial eclipse, as opposed to the historic total eclipse.
It has been more than 200 years, since 1806, that the path of totality of a total solar eclipse has come this close to the Kansas City area.