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The Bedford Area School District often writes about the importance of trust and creating a safe environment for students. I am writing to you today regarding the upcoming solar eclipse and the District’s capacity to create a safe environment for students. The solar eclipse has several safety issues including eye damage if a person looks at the eclipse, as well as dismissal occurring during a period of distracted drivers. Additionally, Bedford Elementary School has well over 400 very young students in Grades Pre-K (4 years old) through 3rd Grade. These students will be sitting on school district buses during the eclipse as well as riding home and exiting buses during a period of confusion. Moreover, all middle school and high school students will be dismissed to buses and travel home during the same time. Given these variables, I am concerned that it is virtually impossible to assure parents that students will not look at the sun during the eclipse. Frankly, the District does not have the level of supervision to control every student’s eyes. I would be absolutely heartbroken if any student damaged his/her eyes during this event. Furthermore, I am concerned about potential distracted drivers during the eclipse.

On April 8, 2024, Central Pennsylvania will experience a 95% eclipse at 3:10 p.m. The eclipse will begin at approximately 2:00 p.m. and will last until 4:30 p.m. During this period, there is expected to be an increase in distracted drivers and the potential for eye damage. On a regular day, we begin our dismissal at 2:50 p.m. at Bedford Elementary School and then dismiss Bedford Middle School and Bedford High School at 3:10 p.m. On a normal day, the last drop-off for students is 4:20 p.m. Therefore, the solar eclipse event coincides exactly with our student dismissal and travel to their homes.

Given the safety concerns and the eclipse coinciding with our dismissal and student travel, the District will dismiss elementary students at 12:50 p.m. and middle and high school students at 1:10 p.m. (2-hour early dismissal). Additionally, we will cancel all after-school events including athletics and the After 3 Program. We wanted to notify parents/guardians as early as possible so that they can arrange for any necessary childcare. Again, I take student safety very seriously and believe that the best place for students during this event is under the supervision of their parents/guardians.

I appreciate your support and understanding,

Dr. Paul Ruhlman

Superintendent of Schools