What to do on April 8: Avoid scams, don’t look at the sun without proper glasses — but how about school?

— Image from NASA/Aubrey Gemignani

This composite image of 11 pictures shows the progression of a total solar eclipse over Madras, Oregon, on Aug. 21, 2017.

A once-in-a-generation solar eclipse on April 8 is being greeted locally with enthusiasm — and caution.

The next total solar eclipse in New York state will be on May 1, 2079.

Local libraries and Thacher State Park are offering programs about the eclipse as schools are taking “a potpourri of approaches,” Guilderland Superintendent Marie Wiles told her school board on March 12.

Guilderland is contemplating an early dismissal on April 8 because the eclipse will start in Guilderland at 2:12 p.m. — smack in the middle of dismissal — be at 97.6 percent at 3:26 p.m., and end at 4:36 p.m.

While the Capital Region will see 97- or 98-percent coverage, places in the Adirondacks and western New York will experience a total eclipse.

During the eclipse, it is unsafe to look directly at the sun without specialized eye protection — regular sunglasses won’t do — and can result in serious injury. The partial phases of the solar eclipse can only be safely observed directly with specialized eclipse glasses or a handheld solar viewer.

The governor’s office issued a release this week, saying eclipse glasses will be distributed at 30 locations throughout the state — including New York State Welcome Centers and select service areas along the state Thruway — as well as a reminder for stargazers to be wary of scams, fake merchandise, and phony accommodation listings and urging New Yorkers to take proper safety precautions during the eclipse.

Meanwhile, the University at Albany Atmospheric Sciences Research Center has installed a webcam at the top of its observatory on Whiteface Mountain in the Adirondacks. The webcam is 4,867 feet above sea level and the video will be available for free to the public on YouTube.

If there is low cloud cover on April 8, the Whiteface Mountain Field Station webcam may offer a rare unobstructed view of the eclipse, according to a release from UAlbany. Contingent on the weather, the eclipse will be visible there between 2:13 and 4:36 p.m., according to Eclipse Soundscapes. The total eclipse will occur between 3:25 and 3:28 p.m. 

There are ways to watch an eclipse safely through projection.

“If you don’t have eclipse glasses or a handheld solar viewer, you can use an indirect viewing method, which does not involve looking directly at the Sun,” according to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. “One way is to use a pinhole projector, which has a small opening (for example, a hole punched in an index card) and projects an image of the Sun onto a nearby surface. With the Sun at your back, you can then safely view the projected image. Do NOT look at the Sun through the pinhole!”



The Guilderland School Board had a lengthy discussion at its March 12 meeting about what to do on April 8 but reached no conclusion.

“The plan would be to have everyone come into school at their normal time but to have the high school dismiss first, then the middle school, and then finally the elementary schools,” said Wiles near the start of the meeting. “We’d like to time the dismissal of the elementary schools so that we know the children are home before that 2:12 mark.”

Wiles also said that a number of schools in the western part of the state and in the Adirondacks, where the eclipse will be total, are closing.

In the Capital Region, she said, districts “are literally all over the place” with some having a regular school day and others having early dismissal or half days.

Guilderland, Wiles said, is unusual because Wednesday, April 10, is a day off in observance of the Muslim holiday Eid.

“We don’t have 5,000 certified glasses,” she said, “nor would we have the capacity to make sure 5,000 kids keep them on while they’re on the bus or walking home. So we’re trying to find the right balance.”

“There’s always going to be people that are unhappy with whatever decision you make,” said board President Seema Rivera toward the end of the meeting. “That’s guaranteed. She said it would be a burden on parents who have to think about childcare if there is an early dismissal.

However, Rivera went on, “But it is also a once-in-a-lifetime event.” She noted too, that April 8 is the Monday when classes resume after spring break.

Board member Rebecca Butterfield called the eclipse “a compelling historical event that we might want to consider our students participating in.”

Board member Blanca Gonzalez-Parker said she’d like to see students have the day off in place of the Friday off before Memorial Day weekend, which the district has traditionally granted if it hasn’t used up its snow days.

While Gonzalez-Parker termed the eclipse a “once-in-a-lifetime thing,” Wiles noted snow days or emergency days could still be called for.

“March is March and April is April,” she said. “We’ve had broken water lines. We’ve had power outages. We’ve had locusts. I’m joking,” Wiles said, concluding on a more serious note: “We close our buildings for things other than snow days.”

Wiles reminded the board of the Eid holiday on April 10 and said, “We’re closed on Wednesday so that week of instruction will be no school Monday, school on Tuesday, no school on Wednesday, which will equate to no one’s coming to school till Thursday … They’ll be calling their hotels to stay in Florida till Wednesday.”

Board member Judy Slack told of how her family had once planned a trip to Missouri to see an eclipse that would be the total there. “The timing was all set,” she recounted, “and we got there and it was cloudy.”

More Regional News

The Altamont Enterprise is focused on hyper-local, high-quality journalism. We produce free election guides, curate readers' opinion pieces, and engage with important local issues. Subscriptions open full access to our work and make it possible.