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FDA hosts eclipse viewing event

All eyes were aimed skyward Monday afternoon at a little after 1 p.m. for a sight that wouldn’t be seen again for decades.

Fort Dale Academy held a viewing for Monday’s solar eclipse for students, parents, faculty and staff.

The Great American Eclipse, as it has been dubbed, is the first solar eclipse in 99 years to be visible from one end of the country to another.

The path of totality—the region of the country in which viewers could see the moon completely envelop the sun’s rays, leaving only a thin corona of sunlight—stretched across 14 states.

And though viewers in Greenville could only experience about 90 percent of the total eclipse, the majesty of the sight wasn’t lost on Fort Dale students.

Students in grades 1-12, as well as other participants, gathered at the school’s stadium and were provided certified eclipse glasses so that they could safely view the extremely rare occasion.

Fort Dale Academy headmaster David Brantley said that even though a number of schools around the country opted to close for safety concerns, Fort Dale instead decided to embrace the opportunity and make it an educational experience. 

Brantley and the FDA faculty and staff only arrived at that conclusion after weeks of deliberation and planning.  The school even enlisted the help of a local optometrist to make the occasion as safe for the community as possible.

“We made a conscious decision to embrace this,” Brantley said.

“We talked to Dr. Caleb Gardner, and he was most helpful in instructing us. He spoke to our teachers and our parents at a meeting the other night, and he was very helpful in our planning.”

Mrs. Jan Lowery, who Brantley called a key part of the school and the event, shopped around at various Lowe’s stores in search of protective eyewear, and eventually obtained 600 pairs of eclipse classes from locations in Montgomery and Prattville.

“Teachers talked to our students, and we emphasized over and over to them the safety protocol, and we had some of our seniors help monitor some of the younger students,” Brantley said. “And we had a lot of our parents came and volunteered.  It was a great day for us, and many of our kids were excited.  It was their first experience like that.

“Hopefully it’ll be something that they’ll remember for the rest of their lives; and they’ll remember that they were able to do it at school and with their classmates, and that it was a fun and educational occasion.  And hopefully they’ve learned and understood it, and one day they’ll be able to talk to their children about this.”

Fort Dale teachers weaved the eclipse into their curriculum, and Brantley himself visited every student in each classroom prior to the occasion, emphasizing safety again and explaining how and why the solar eclipse occurred.

And as the moon swallowed the sun Monday afternoon, FDA students’ excitement nearly drowned out Brantley’s own quiet amazement, though he said he was amazed all the same.

“It’s a phenomenon,” Brantley said.

“I did expect it to be darker than it was, but it was an impressive time.  It’s God’s work, and it’s just an amazing thing.”