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Taking a solar eclipse day? School districts say students can stay home

By Thomas C. Tobin
Associated Press
Schoolchildren in London watch a solar eclipse on March 20, 2015. Tampa Bay area school districts are starting to prepare for Monday's solar eclipse with guidance to families and schools.

Students in the Hillsborough, Pinellas and Pasco school systems can get an excused absence to watch Monday's solar eclipse.

A notice on Hillsborough district website says parents can keep their children in school for a half day and pick them up early, or keep them out all day, provided they follow up with a note.

The other option: Keep them in school and allow them to take part in "exciting educational plans" for watching the eclipse. The district also urges parents to let their school know if they don't want their child to participate in eclipse activities while at school.

"A special total solar eclipse is coming up," the notice says. "This eclipse is special because people can only see it from inside the United States of America."

Pinellas officials also said students can be excused with a note, and they are taking extra precautions during the eclipse.

RELATED: Everything you need to know to watch the solar eclipse (safely) in Tampa Bay

The district sent out guidance to principals on Friday "highly recommending" that students watch the eclipse via a live stream provided by NASA, found here. But if schools choose to provide the opportunity for students to view the solar eclipse directly, parents must sign a district-approved permission slip and use certified solar viewers.

Because the maximum eclipse will take place at dismissal time around 3 p.m., the district also sent out a phone message urging parents to talk to their children about the dangers of looking directly into the sun and to be careful while driving during the time of the eclipse. The message said regular dismissal will not be affected.

The district had no information yet on which schools will take students outside during the event.

In Pasco County, the district said today that it too would allow students to be at home all or part of the day to watch the eclipse, provided they bring in a note from a parent. Students will be given an excused absence. Pasco also gave out the following information:

"No Pasco County elementary schools will have lessons outdoors, but some secondary school activities will be outdoors. All outdoor eclipse lessons will use proper safety procedures. All participants must use solar viewers verified to be compliant with the ISO 12312-2 International Safety Standard.  If a viewing activity is organized by a teacher as part of a science lesson, parents must complete a signed parent permission form for each participating student and return it to their teacher by Monday morning, August 21. Parents who do not want their children to be a part of any outdoor eclipse plan must let their school know in advance."

We're waiting to get eclipse information from Hernando school officials, and will let you know when we do.

RELATED: Neil deGrasse Tyson's life advice for watching the solar eclipse