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School's out for solar eclipse: Amherst 5th graders convince board to cancel classes on April 8, 2024

Nine out of Ohio's 88 counties will be in the path of totality, meaning more visitors will likely crowd communities in the afternoon of April 8, 2024.

AMHERST, Ohio — Do you have next April's Total Solar Eclipse circled on your calendar? It takes place on April 8, 2024, putting us at 318 days away (as of May 25, 2023).

A solar eclipse occurs when the Moon passes between the Earth and the Sun. During a total eclipse, the Moon lines up perfectly to fully block the Sun.  

Ohio is one of the states in the path of totality. And Lorain County will be one of nine counties in the state that will be right in the middle of the path of totality. The full eclipse will last about 3 minutes and 49 seconds and it is scheduled to occur at 3:13 p.m. on that day.  

In Amherst, we found a dedicated group of 5th graders that are determined to let nothing stand in the way of their viewing plans. In fact they went to the Amherst Board of Education to make sure of it. 

At Nord Middle School, they're already counting the number of school days remaining this year. And as students look forward to summer, the 5th graders have reason to be proud. 

"We get to miss April 8th for the Solar Eclipse," said student Cora Ryan. 

Yep, every child in the school district has the 5th grade students to thank. Part of their science class this year was devoted to learning about space and, in particular, what happens during a solar eclipse. 

The 5th graders were excited to learn about the eclipse happening in 2024 and the prime viewing they would have in northeast Ohio. But there was just one problem: the timing. 

"We would be in school and by the time we even got outside to see it, it would just be done since it's going last only about four minutes," said 5th grader Cameron Gilboy. 

The students put their persuasive writing skills to use and crafted letters about why a day off would be better. 

Many wrote about potential traffic and safety issues, with many visitors flocking to the area to watch the eclipse. They also wrote about disruption for nocturnal animals, some of which might come out in the dark. And many students had their own pets in mind, worried they would be home alone when the daylight suddenly vanished. 

Eight students were chosen to present their letters to Amherst's school board back in February. 

"We just talked about how the board makes those decisions and votes on those things. So it was their job to convince them, to persuade them that not having school on that day would be a better option," said Nord science teacher Erin Kinser. 

Some students admitted to a few nerves during the meeting. 

"It was stressful and all that stuff, but I knew that other kids were going to go and I wasn't the only one going. That made me feel better," said 5th grader Violet Hawkins. 

Once they presented, the students had to wait until the end of the meeting for a decision. And it was worth the wait, as the board voted unanimously to cancel school on April 8th 2024. 

"I think the board was very impressed. You could just tell by their interaction with the kids," said Kinser proudly.

If there ever was a good reason to stay home from school, these students found it, along the path of totality. 

"When I'm older, I want to be a pediatrician. So I need to know my science," said Cora Ryan.

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