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Solar Eclipse of the Teachers' Hearts - By michael-barba - September 7, 2016 - SF Weekly
SF Weekly

Solar Eclipse of the Teachers’ Hearts

(Dylan Goldberger)

Ruth Radetsky has never had the chance to witness the full experience of a total eclipse of the sun.

In 1970, Radetsky peered through a pinhole camera as a sixth grader and saw a total eclipse that cast a shadow across the southern and eastern United States. But she was just outside the zone of totality, and as a result disappointed, she says.

“When it comes to a total eclipse of the sun, being close isn’t nearly the same thing as being in it,” says Radetsky, 57. “Or, at least, so I’m told.”

If you’re in the right place during a total solar eclipse, the earth goes quiet and dark for a matter of seconds, or minutes.

Radetsky, a math teacher at Balboa High School in the Mission Terrace neighborhood, came to the Board of Education on a recent Tuesday to try and make sure her students will have the opportunity she missed more than four decades ago.

On Aug. 21, 2017, central Oregon will experience a total solar eclipse. It’s expected to be the closest eclipse of its kind to appear near San Francisco for the next three decades, Radetsky says. The problem is, there’s a possibility it will fall on the same day as the first day of school.

“The first day of school is the most important day of my calendar year, a new beginning,” Radetsky says to the board while wearing a bright-blue shirt saturated with images of the solar system. “I’d hate to miss it, and I hate it when my students miss it.”

This school year, the first day fell on Aug. 15. Last year, it fell on Aug. 17.

In 2014-15, Aug. 18 was the first day of school.

Heidi Anderson, a spokesperson for the San Francisco Unified School District, says the school board won’t consider setting the school year calendar until December at the earliest.

But Radetsky was at the board to give them a solid year’s notice.

“It’s the only chance I’ve had or am likely to have in my lifetime to see a total eclipse of the sun within a day’s drive,” she says. “My students will have another chance, but not for 30 years in Northern California.”

Also wearing a planetary shirt, fellow Balboa teacher Kevin Hartzog joined Radetsky at the board in her venture.

“These events happen very rarely,” the veteran teacher says, noting that he saw the 1970 eclipse from a playground in San Francisco.

Hartzog says the solar eclipse is a useful display for students to learn about the earth’s relation to the rest of the solar system as the school district prepares to roll out its next-generation science standards next school year.