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WRDSB schools will be closed Monday for eclipse


The Waterloo Region District School Board has reversed its earlier decision to keep schools open as usual on Monday during the solar eclipse.

In a statement released Wednesday – five days before the eclipse – the school board said schools will now be closed to students Monday. Instead, asynchronously learning options will be provided. Staff, however, will be expected to report to their work location as scheduled, the board said.

“I think quite simply we’ve been getting some more feedback from families and some additional considerations have come up,” WRDSB Director of Education jeewan chanicka told CTV News, adding he was deeply sorry for the short notice and inconvenience caused to parents.

The board’s reversal comes six days after the union representing elementary school teachers in Waterloo Region called for students to be let out early on the day of the eclipse.

chanicka said the board considered this option back when they initially started planning for the eclipse but it simply wasn’t possible.

“There were issues with getting school bus drivers, there were issues with crossing guard availability… we actually tried multiple versions of what that [early dismissal] could look like and there were pretty significant safety issues that we ran up against,” he said.

Jeff Pelich, president of the Elementary Teacher’s Federation of Ontario Waterloo Region, said the board likely felt like it was out of options.

“Is an asynchronous day the best solution? Probably not,” Pelich said. “I think likely from their perspective, it's the only solution, and so they needed to do something.”

Even if students aren’t in the classroom on April 8, they’ll still be learning a lot about the rare celestial event, Pelich said.

“It’s one day. I think with something as important as the eclipse occurring, there's some great opportunities to explore and discover, to learn about what's happening in our world right now. And I think teachers will make the most of it.”

chanicka noted students in kindergarten to Grade 3 will still receive eclipse glasses.

The PD day already scheduled for Wednesday will go ahead as planned.

Decision timeline

In southwestern Ontario, the eclipse it set to begin around 2 p.m. and reach its peak at 3:18 p.m.

In January, many schools boards began rescheduling PD days to coincide with the solar eclipse out of fear students could damage their eyes if they stared at the sun while on their way home from school.

In early March, WRDSB bucked the trend, announcing its schools would be open as usual on April 8.

In a message posted to social media at the time, WRDSB said its students would take part in “once-in-a-lifetime learning opportunities during the total solar eclipse, with appropriate safety measures.”

“We did the best that we could at that time in terms of how we came to that decision,” chanicka said Wednesday. “And then based on some of the new feedback that we’ve gotten, we’ve now made this decision with the hope that ultimately students are safe.”

Parents scramble to find child-care

The sudden announcement has left many parents scrambling to co-ordinate childcare for Monday. 

“From a planning perspective it would have been nice to know a lot sooner,” parent Rebecca Patten told CTV News.

Some took to social media to express their anger.

“Is this an April Fools’ Joke? Why didn’t you switch the PD Day months ago, like the other boards? Now parents are scrambling for TWO days next week,” one commenter said on X, formally known as Twitter.

“Next total eclipse in Waterloo Region will be Mon, Oct 26, 2144 at 1:11 pm. Maybe plan ahead next time,” said another.

chanicka said the school board is still looking into whether anything can be arranged to help people who are struggling to sort out child-care, but nothing is confirmed at this point.

He apologized to parents who are now in a tough spot.

“For that I'm deeply apologetic. That would not be something that we wanted. And like I said, it was part of our consideration for why we had the plan that we did,” chanicka said.

CTV News spoke to a number of daycare programs in the region Wednesday. The YMCA said they're still working to get a grasp of the situation, since they found out when everyone else did.

As of 2 p.m. Wednesday, Bingemans still had spots open for its Monday day camp. The program normally requires three business days notice to per-register, but Bingemans said the deadline had been moved to Friday given the circumstances. Top Stories

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