Its just a phase

It’s just a phase

Texarkana ISD plans for upcoming solar eclipse

For two minutes and 24 seconds, day will turn into night. For two minutes and 24 seconds, darkness will envelope the senses. For two minutes and 24 seconds the structure of our solar system will change in a way that residents of Texarkana can only fully experience once every few centuries. 

On Monday, April 8, 2024, a total solar eclipse will hit a strip from the southwest to northeast part of North America, passing through small-town Texarkana in the process and thus affecting local school districts in numerous ways.

On Wednesday March 27th, 2024 TISD announced a plan that will close all campuses during the solar eclipse. 

“We have made this decision out of an abundance of caution, as the safety of our students and staff is always the district’s utmost priority, ” TISD said in a statement. “Because the eclipse will end around the time school would typically release, our concerns center around congested traffic, transportation issues and emergency response times.”

Although school is canceled during the day of the solar eclipse, many faculty members understand the executive decision being made for the safety of the district. 

“Anytime the health and welfare of students is involved the district will err on the side of caution,” science teacher Jessica Sharp said. “Local officials estimate a significant increase in the number of people that will be in and around the Texarkana area; this influx of non-residents to Bowie and Miller county pose a significant disruption in travel times to and from schools.”   

Contrary to popular belief, total solar eclipses actually happen across the world every 18 months or so, with only the chances of it happening in one particular place becoming significantly slimmer. This allows for more information to be known about them from why they occur to how they may affect the surrounding environment. 

“When it happens people are going to feel a dramatic change in temperature and then a rapid rise in temperature as soon as the sun comes back,” Upchurch said. “The total eclipse allows us to see the stars at night during the day and so it’s truly kind of an inspirational event.”

Prior to the cancellation of classes, Texas High School had planned to seize this historic opportunity by making it an educational moment.

“So I’ve talked to instructional services and from what I understand they have bought solar glasses for all students from grade six through 12th-grade,” Upchurch said. “And so I think we’re hoping that at least all those students will be able to go out at that time in the classes and experience it and we’ll help all the teachers accommodate students and allow them to do this because it is a rare event.”

Other schools within the district, specifically Nash Elementary, also had plans for the eclipse, with some staff members using the event to gather grant funding. In fact, science and technology teacher Sonya Freeze applied for a $700 foundation grant aimed at planning a sort of “celestial celebration” for their students. 

“So I got the grant which will cover all the expenses, and I was over the moon about that,” Freeze said. “I was really excited to think that I could use the solar eclipse to get glasses for the kids at school as well as some materials for the teachers.”

The planned event would have been just as educational as it would be fun, with another part of this grant proposal involving integrating information relating to solar eclipses with the already established TEKS in order to get students to understand the “hows and whys” of the upcoming event. This preparation would have not only allowed them to have an idea of what’s happening but also hopefully awaken a sense of curiosity within them .

“I’ve already started teaching some about rotation with the sun and moon,” Freeze said. “I hope it makes them excited and sparks their interest in learning more about what’s out there.” 

Solar eclipses haven’t always presented themselves as an avenue for new educational opportunities or a source of anticipation. Historically, they have often been viewed with a more negative connotation. 

“For a long time, solar eclipses were seen as kind of a very frightening experience. In Ancient China where we see the first recorded evidence of solar eclipses, they believed that an eclipse was caused by a dragon eating the sun, and you see this in a lot of cultures where a lot of Native American tribes would say it was various animals like a bear,” geography teacher Michelle Crane said. “In a lot of cases, they believed eclipses were like an omen of some sort or a sign that some future bad event was going to happen.”

These superstitions, with the aid of numerous scientific discoveries, later evolved from being a sign of impending doom to what most know now to be a concurrent alignment between the moon, sun and earth. 

“It really comes down to scientific advancement,” Crane said. “With things like the development of the telescope and Newton’s theories of gravity people began to see how heavenly bodies worked and understand that this is just a natural phenomenon just like any other scientific phenomenon.”

With this particular solar eclipse approaching, certain students on campus have also shared interest in the theories that proved their existence. 

“Einstein’s theory of relativity proved the existence of the space time continuum,” senior Brett Sparks said. “So he took pictures of the sky at night in the middle of nowhere in Brazil, and got pictures of the stars, and then when the solar eclipse happened the next day, the stars were in different locations. So he disproved gravity into existence.” 

The progression of such scientific discoveries in learning about the universe not only led to our knowledge of solar eclipses today but also our implementation and appreciation of the phenomenon in numerous ways. With the last total solar eclipse hitting Texarkana almost 375 years ago, this event will likely be one that will last in the minds of our community for years to come.

“I think the solar eclipse will be a really cool experience,” Sparks said. “I mean it’s truly just a once in a lifetime kind of thing.”

Twin cities prepare for Solarbration’s economic impact

The usual quiet yet chaotic environment of Texarkana suddenly feels disparate. Streets that were once only slightly hectic for this unique city now fill with cars and tourists, and with that comes traffic. Suddenly, the brightness of the day becomes dim, almost dark, as people wearing protective paper glasses look up at the sky in awe. 

On April 8, Texarkana expects to receive many tourists to view the rare total eclipse. Due to the city having a unique border, visitors become attracted to the thought of viewing the eclipse from two states simultaneously. 

“Now not only are you looking up and it’ll be practically total darkness, you get to do so in two states at one time,” Texarkana Chamber of Commerce Director of Events and Communications  Amber Adams said. “Historically, you know, people years from now can say, ‘Oh, I remember that, but I did it in two places at once,’ so I feel like for those that are hardcore followers of the eclipse and love astrology, that’s a real bucket list item for them.” 

Having several previous events in the Texarkana area, nothing compares to the estimated number of tourists for this particular phenomenon. 

“Last year, we did a fishing tournament, and that brought in a lot of people. I can’t remember the exact numbers, but it was a huge draw,” Adams said. “All it does is help us, and so we’re constantly looking or hoping to get future events that can literally put us on the map, similar to what the eclipses have done.”

Local restaurants anticipate a boom in business, especially in the downtown area given there will be a noticeable increase in population. 

“We expect to see a noticeable increase in traffic on the weekend leading up to the eclipse,” owner and brewer of Pecan Point Gastropub and Brewery William Scurlock said. “We regularly see out-of-town visitors who are looking for a local restaurant with interesting food choices or who are looking for a brewery with great food.”

Local businesses prepare in every way possible to make the event enjoyable for visitors and efficient for the businesses themselves. Some restaurants plan on adapting to this fluctuation by overstaffing for the weekend. 

“We will be staffed up,” Scurlock said. “If the weather is nice, we will also have outside seating available.”

Whereas, other establishments plan on prioritizing their stock to cater the incoming visitors. 

“We’re definitely preparing by ordering more of our essentials to get a nice stockpile before April. I think what the officials are anticipating is the city and community not being prepared for that kind of influx of people,” Alley Cats owner Hillary Cloud said. “So with that insight, we’re just ordering all of what we usually do, and more so that we’re prepared for these kinds of crowds.”  

Though the eclipse will be a new phenomenon for businesses to adjust to, it will not be their first time dealing with a large crowd. 

“We regularly see heavy traffic when there is a large event downtown or when there is a performance next door at the Perot,” Scurlock said. “It’s difficult to say how large the eclipse will be for downtown Texarkana.”

Other businesses that aren’t gaining as much traffic look to benefit from the eclipses tourism. 

“We’re hoping that the tourists that want to come to see the two states were right here on the line,” Cloud said. “So yeah, we were preparing for a big crowd and hoping that we would get one.”

In celebration of the rare event, restaurants feature special menu items to follow the theme of the eclipse. 

“We will feature a new beer called ‘Total Eclipse Imperial Milk Stout,’” Scurlock said. “Our bartenders are also working on some themed cocktails. I expect to have some special menu offerings as well.”

Aside from restaurants adapting to the event, other venues will be providing entertainment for visitors following the theme. 

“In April, the weekend of the solar eclipse, the theater that I’m in, Silvermoon, is doing a show called ‘Little Shop of Horrors’,” sophomore Kateleigh Crowson said. “The big theme of it is how there’s going to be a total eclipse of the sun.”

Not only does Silvermoon plan on making this an entertaining event for the community, but they also intend on it becoming a bonding experience for their cast and actors. 

“The reason that they [chose the play] is because of the solar eclipse happening that weekend,” Crowson said. “They have plans for us to go out and watch the eclipse together as a cast, and I think that’s gonna be fun because we can bond with each other while also getting to watch some cool things going on in the sky.”

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