Students in Laurens County District 55 Schools will return to school a few days earlier this August for what educators hope will be an out-of-this-world learning experience.
The District 55 Board of Trustees voted at its March 27 meeting to shift the school calendar back so that students will report to school on Thursday, Aug. 17, five days earlier than initially planned.
The earlier date will give teachers and students extra time to prepare for a solar eclipse that will darken Laurens County on the afternoon of Aug. 21. It is the first such eclipse in the U.S. since February of 1978.
“We have a great opportunity for students to learn here,” said Laurens District 55 Superintendent Dr. Stephen Peters. “It’s a chance to delve deep into science, and I think our teachers are excited about being able to share this experience with the kids.”
Peters said the State Department of Education, Clemson University and other agencies are helping to formulate astronomy lesson plans for educators around the state, dealing particularly with this solar eclipse.
According to the website eclipse2017.org, Laurens County is one of the prime viewing areas for the solar eclipse in the state.
On Monday, Aug. 21, the county is in the path of the total eclipse and will have one of the longest durations of totality in the state.
In Laurens, the total eclipse can be viewed for a duration of about 2 minutes, 30 seconds, beginning at 2:39 p.m.
“This is an interesting opportunity for our students, and we want to take advantage of it,” said Peters.
Peters said the new school calendar for District 55 will mirror those in neighboring districts, including Laurens District 56 and Greenwood District 50.
In addition to allowing students to learn more about the solar eclipse, the earlier start date will also allow for the first semester of the 2017-18 school year to be completed prior to Christmas break.
“There’s a lot of benefit to his (early start),” Peters said. “But the educational benefit with the solar eclipse is incredible. It was really not a hard decision to make.