Jennifer Johnson, Wilson County Schools spokesperson, said the district began receiving phone calls from principals about teachers who applied to take a sick day Monday, the day of the solar eclipse. In response, Wilson County Director of Schools Donna Wright sent out a memo to principals.
In the memo, Wright said teachers who recently said they would not be at their school Monday would need to notify their students’ parents by the end of the day Friday to allow time for parents to make a decision about whether to send their child to school Monday, because the classes will have substitute teachers.
Substitutes who are contacted to work Monday will not be able to participate in any of the planned viewing activities or other events outside of the classroom or take students outside, because they have not received proper training, according to the memo.
Wright said substitutes for teachers who gave advance notice would be able to take students outside to view the eclipse, because they received proper training.
The Wilson County school board upheld the district’s decision to hold classes Monday during its monthly meeting, although board member Wayne McNeese objected to the decision.
“I really have a problem with us going to school on [Monday], because of the liability we expose our teachers to. If not talking about a monetary liability, but these teachers are going to be responsible for 25-30 kids. No way all of those kids will be able to be watched. There are going to be incidents where these kids take off their glasses or whatever they do,” McNeese said.
Board members Johnnie Payton and Tom Sottek said they felt having students in school supervised was a better situation than having some students at home without supervision.
Johnson said students are allowed three unexcused absences at parents’ discretion, and one could be used Monday.
NASA ambassador Theo Wellington spoke to the Wilson County Commission earlier this year and discussed the solar eclipse.
Wellington said half of the U.S. population is within a single day’s drive to the total solar eclipse path, which means areas along the path, such as Wilson County, will experience an influx of visitors.
“We’re going to be in close contact with emergency personnel. If there is the chaos and pandemonium they’re predicting, we will hold buses – whatever we need to do – because kids will be in a safe place,” said Wright. “We’re not going to release kids and have them stuck.”
Wright said the district would work with local emergency service agencies to monitor traffic situations.
The district bought 19,000 sets of glasses for students and teachers.
The general public will not be allowed to enter schools for the eclipse, but Wright said several schools have invited parents to the school for the event.