The Union R-XI School District announced Wednesday evening they would cancel classes the day of the total solar eclipse Monday, Aug. 21, that officials say could bring up to 30,000 visitors to the city.
A statement on the school district’s Facebook page attributed the cancellation to the district and local and county emergency services being unable to predict the unknown.
“Local and county emergency service personnel have been very helpful, but since this is truly a "once-in-a lifetime event", they admit that due to the "unknown", it is impossible for them to know how quickly they will be able to respond to any request for aid should an emergency occur,” the statement read.
Assistant City Administrator James Schmieder recently said Union residents should stay home the day of the eclipse and watch the solar phenomenon from their backyards. He said the amount of traffic expected in the area would make it difficult to get from one side to another.
He said there could be anywhere from 10,000 to 30,000 visitors coming to Union, or none at all, depending on the weather.
“There’s no reason to fight traffic, there’s no reason to fight the crowd, there’s no reason to sit on Highway 50 and there’s no reason to sit at the exit,” Schmieder said.
MoDOT officials recently said Union should expect extreme congestion on many roadways in the area on the day of the eclipse, and particularly in the hours leading up to the eclipse and after.
The district statement said with that information, the Union administration and school board decided it was best to err on the side of caution.
“As a result, we agree with our local emergency management and transportation personnel regarding erring on the side of caution,” the post read.
The district had planned to make the day an event for students to learn about the eclipse with their families. Superintendent Steve Weinhold said the district had been monitoring the situation for some time, but until then had intended to make the eclipse a learning experience.
The district will be teaching students about the solar eclipse prior to the event and will be sending glasses home with each student on Friday, Aug. 18.
The post on Facebook was received well. Several parents of students thanked the school district. One parent said this was a “smart” decision. When the district had originally announced classes would be held, some parents took to the social media site to share their frustrations.
“We understand that any decision we make will affect everyone differently, however, our top priority is and always will be student and staff safety,” the statement read.