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A celestial encounter

CHS witnesses pinnacle total solar eclipse
On+Monday%2C+Coppell+High+School+students+experienced+a+total+solar+eclipse+by+viewing+through+district-issued+viewfinders.+Coppell+was+on+the+path+of+totality+and+CHS+scheduled+an+evacuation+drill+from+1%3A35-1%3A55+p.m.+to+provide+students+a+viewing+experience.
Wendy Le
On Monday, Coppell High School students experienced a total solar eclipse by viewing through district-issued viewfinders. Coppell was on the path of totality and CHS scheduled an evacuation drill from 1:35-1:55 p.m. to provide students a viewing experience.

“I was in shock,” Coppell High School senior Sunya Ajani said. “I was sitting with my friends and we couldn’t believe that we were actually living through this. We were never going to see this again in our lifetime”

On Monday, CHS had the opportunity to view a total solar eclipse, one that won’t be visible for another 293 years in Texas. The last total solar eclipse occurred on August 21, 2017, but Coppell was not in the path of totality. 

This year, however, Coppell found itself in the path of totality, and the district was able to witness this phenomenon during the school day. CHS followed a slightly modified schedule in which a scheduled evacuation drill from 1:35-1:50 p.m. permitted students to encounter the totality at its peak at 1:41 p.m.

According to CHS Principal Laura Springer, the consideration of having an evacuation drill was to get everyone outside of the building safely in order to create an enjoyable experience. 

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“We were making sure that students wouldn’t hurt their retinas and we took care of business, so everyone can be safe and have fun,” Springer said. “I think it is the coolest thing ever that the darkness descends upon us in the middle of the school day, and it’s great that the students get to experience that while being in school.”

Students were able to view the build-up of the totality with the sun and earth through district-issued viewfinders or glasses. As the moon aligned with the sun and earth, darkness blanketed across the landscape, and gasps of fascination from students and staff echoed across. 

On Monday, Coppell High School students experienced a total solar eclipse at 1:41 p.m. Coppell was on the path of totality and CHS scheduled an evacuation drill from 1:35-1:55 p.m. to provide students a viewing experience. (Ainsley Dwyer)

“It was a collective moment of awe,” junior Mihika Patki said. “I wasn’t expecting the eclipse to be as cool as it actually was. Being with my friends and classmates made the moment 10 times better.”

Some students were hesitant that the prior predicted cloudiness would mar their experience. 

“I saw on the weather app that it would be cloudy during the time of the eclipse, and that made me scared that I wouldn’t be able to see it,” junior Anushka Joshi said. “When we were watching the eclipse, there were some clouds covering the event initially, but after a few seconds, they disappeared, and everyone was so happy.”

Due to religious or personal reasons, students also had the option to opt-out from the totality. Students were given an excused absence or could remain in the CHS Commons during the time of the eclipse.

For astronomy teacher Angela Barnes, this day was special – the totality coincided with her birthday. 

“Five years ago, I heard that in 2024, there was going to be a total solar eclipse in Dallas, and I was like ‘Wow. That is cool,’” Barnes said. “Then I realized that it would be on April 8 and I would turn 51 that day. [Monday] was the day I have been thinking about for five years, and before, a part of me wished it was on Saturday, so I can spend my birthday with my family, but then I realized that I’d rather be with my astronomy students than anyone else.”

Barnes ensured her astronomy classes would be educated in the eclipse beforehand, and took a step further by taking her students on an excursion to Andy Brown Park East to allow them to see the progression of the totality beyond the scheduled time at CHS.

On Monday, Coppell High School students experienced a total solar eclipse by viewing through district-issued viewfinders. Coppell was on the path of totality and CHS scheduled an evacuation drill from 1:35-1:55 p.m. to provide students a viewing experience. (Wendy Le)

“Being the astronomy teacher, there was a pressure to make it a great experience for everyone,” Barnes said. “Walking to the park, having that space, being able to kind of relax and take it all in was a cool experience. We noticed the temperature change early, the sky was turning yellow and the wind picked up. I’m still kind of buzzing from it.”

The eclipse will be a day that CHS students and staff remember indefinitely. 

“It was surreal to experience this,” Patki said. “In the future, when I have my own kids, I will show them my pictures, the visors that I got to keep and that I was able to experience this.”

Follow @CHSCampusNews and @sahasrachak24 on X. 

This story was originally published on Coppell Student Media on April 9, 2024.