Schools to remain open for solar eclipse

Xavier Smith • Aug 14, 2017 at 9:34 PM

The Wilson County school board upheld the district’s decision to hold classes Monday after one board member attempted to cancel classes.

Board member Wayne McNeese made a motion during Monday’s monthly meeting to cancel classes Aug. 21 when the area is expected to have an influx of visitors due to the total solar eclipse. The motion failed, keeping classes in session.


“I really have a problem with us going to school on [Aug. 21], 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.

Jennifer Johnson, Wilson County Schools spokesperson, said students are allowed three unexcused absences at parent’s discretion and one could be used Aug. 21.

“Unfortunately, we know that not all parents have the luxury of taking a day off from work for something like an eclipse, and we’d hate it for those students to sit home and miss the event all together,” Johnson said last month.

McNeese also raised concern about potential traffic issues following the eclipse due to the expected number of visitors to the area.

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 Wilson County Director of Schools Donna 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.

Leesa Hubbard, special education teacher and space enthusiast, led two training sessions aimed at creating lessons, activities and plans for students for the Aug. 21 total solar eclipse. 

Hubbard said part of the training included safety beyond glasses, such as limiting time outside prior to and after the total eclipse, expected to last two minutes and 37 seconds.

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.

The school board also honored Wilson County school bus driver David Wright during Monday’s meeting. Wright became the ninth inductee into the Tennessee School Bus Driver Hall of Fame in June.

Wright, one of the longest tenured drivers in the state, has spent 49 years with the school system, starting in 1967. Wright has driven a bus for every school in Wilson County.

Wright has said he takes pride in his bus and making sure his pupils arrive at their destination without harm. He is also known for his love of Wilson County sports and can be spotted at athletic games after driving a busload of athletes.

Wright has been married to his wife, Helen, for nearly 50 years, and the couple has a son, Calvin.

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