Cities and schools throughout DeKalb County are preparing for a rare celestial event expected to occur in August.

According to NASA, a solar eclipse will occur across North America Aug. 21 when the moon obscures 97.4 percent of the sun. In DeKalb County and other parts of Georgia, the solar eclipse can be viewed around 1 p.m. and end at about 4 p.m. Due to the timing of the phenomenon, the DeKalb County School District will extend the school day “to provide safe viewing and instructional opportunities,” according to a news release from the district.

Dismissal will occur one hour later than usual, at the end of the extended learning period. The school system’s three-tier dismissal system starts with elementary schools, followed by high schools, and finally middle schools. Parents are encouraged to contact their child's school to determine the exact dismissal time on Aug. 21.

“The solar eclipse offers a very special opportunity to experience science and the universe at work. We want our students to have a safe and comprehensive viewing moment, and extending the school day allows for that,” said Superintendent R. Stephen Green. “We will take the appropriate steps to remind our families of this scheduling change, and to minimize its impact.” The district said in a statement that they want to remind the community that it is not safe to stare directly into the sun without special glasses, and it is providing lessons that will allow students to safely take advantage of the moment. Those lessons may include the distribution of special viewing glasses and opportunities to view the eclipse using monitors and safe viewing options. Many teachers will also include information on the eclipse in their lessons that day.

City Schools of Decatur, however, are not planning to change dismissal times. When asked for information regarding safety precautions or educational planning for the solar eclipse, Courtney Burnett with the school system’s communications department said, “We have not formalized any plans for early or late dismissal on August 21. Our schools have received safety information sent out by the Georgia Department of Education.”

The city of Chamblee will be celebrating the solar eclipse with both fun and educational events. According to a news release from city officials, “Chamblee is partnering with Interactive College of Technology (ICT) and the Chamblee Chamber of Commerce to hold an Eclipse Festival on Monday, August 21, from 12:30 to 4:00 p.m. at the Chamblee ICT campus, 5303 New Peachtree Rd. On that day, Georgians will be treated to a total solar eclipse. The last time the contiguous US saw a total eclipse was in 1979. A solar eclipse is where the moon passes between the sun and Earth and blocks all or part of the sun for about three hours from beginning to end.”

During the festival, attendees will be able to participate in educational projects, experiments, games. Refreshments will be served and all ages are welcome to attend.

According to NASA, more than 300 million people in the United States potentially could directly view the Aug. 21 total solar eclipse and safe viewing is required to avoid vision or eye damage.

NASA recommends that people who plan to view the eclipse should check the safety authenticity of viewing glasses to ensure they meet basic proper safety viewing standards.

Eclipse viewing glasses and handheld solar viewers should meet all the following criteria:

· Have certification information with a designated ISO 12312-2 international standard

· Have the manufacturer’s name and address printed somewhere on the product

· Not be used if they are older than three years, or have scratched or wrinkled lenses

· Not use homemade filters

· Ordinary sunglasses, even dark ones, should not be used as a replacement for eclipse viewing glasses or handheld solar viewers

“While NASA isn’t trying to be the eclipse safety glasses ‘police,’ it’s our duty to inform the public about safe ways to view what should be a spectacular sky show for the entire continental United States,” said Alex Young, associate director for science in the Heliophysics Science Division at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. “It’s important that individuals take the responsibility to check they have the proper solar eclipse viewing glasses. With the eclipse a month away today, it’s prudent to practice ahead of time.”

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