HomeOperationsEclipse to Have Little if Any Impact on School Bus Technology

Eclipse to Have Little if Any Impact on School Bus Technology

But school districts that remain open should have still planned ahead and pay particular attention to vehicle and on-road safety

Few, if any, service disruptions will result from the total solar eclipse that will span from southern Texas to Maine on Monday afternoon.

Many school districts in the 15 states affected by the 115-mile-wide shadow already announced as early as last fall that they will be closed out of an abundance of caution and safety because of potential travel in darkness or driver distraction.

The event will begin at about 1:32 p.m. Central time, when midday darkness envelopes Kerrville, Texas, near the Mexico border. The total eclipse will last approximately 4.5 minutes as it moves in a northeastern direction over San Antonio, Austin and Dallas before passing over the southeastern tip of Oklahoma and north-central Arkansas.

The total eclipse path will then extend to southeastern Missouri and Illinois, west Tennessee and northwest Kentucky, most of central and eastern Indiana, western and northern Ohio, the southeast tip of Michigan, the northeast tip of Pennsylvania, the western and northernmost part of upstate New York, northern Vermont and New Hampshire, and central Maine. It will conclude by about 3:35 p.m. Eastern.

A partial eclipse can be seen everywhere else in the contiguous 48 states, as little as 25 percent viewing in the Pacific Northwest and South Florida. The closer one lives to the eclipse path, the more of the moon they will see block the sun.

While the eclipse could disrupt or distort radio and GPS signals due to changes in the Earth’s ionosphere, or the upper part of the atmosphere, no one School Transportation News spoke to over the past month indicated concern because of past experiences with eclipses. But there are precautions to be taken by school districts that remain in session.

In addition to planning ahead for increased traffic congestion or simply not having school buses on the road at the time of the event, Transfinder advised turning on the nighttime viewing mode of any driver apps being used. In a blog post, the company also said extra attention is needed during pre-trip bus inspections to all lighting and safety equipment to ensure they are working properly.

“Consider a meeting with drivers about taking added precautions, similar to tips provided when driving in other poor-visibility conditions,” Transfinder added.

Operation Lifesaver is telling all motorists to always assume railroad tracks are active, even during an eclipse. School buses by law must stop before crossing tracks, with drivers telling students to be quiet, turning off radios, opening the loading door, and scanning down the length of the tracks to each side of the bus before determining it is safe to proceed.

Meanwhile, states are reminding school districts they must still adhere to education regulations and requirements. For example, the Indiana Department of Education said waivers for meeting the minimum threshold for student learning time during the school year will not be granted to schools that close.

The Ohio Department of Education told school districts that they must still provide transportation to resident students who attend community or charter nonpublic schools that remain open. However, it added that it could provide a waiver if school districts explain service was suspended due to the eclipse, which would be considered a closure due to inclement weather.

The next total solar eclipse visible from the contiguous 48 states will be in 2044.

Related: School Districts Encourage Bus Driver Participation in Solar Eclipse Events
Related: (STN Podcast E142) 2023 Kickoff: Economics, Weather & One District’s Innovative Bus Routing Strategy
Related: Worsening Weather Patterns Mean More Contingency Planning for School Bus Operators

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