The Eudora school district is rethinking eclipse-viewing activities for Monday after discovering that the special glasses purchased for students and employees aren’t considered safe to use.
According to a news release published on the district’s website, Eudora Schools leaders learned late Thursday night that the glasses purchased earlier this summer by the Eudora Schools Foundation and the Eudora Elementary PTO resembled the counterfeit glasses described in recent media reports. Leaders from each organization conducted “extensive research and inspection,” the news release said, but were ultimately unable to verify the safety of the glasses.
“This has been very disappointing news for everyone,” Superintendent Steve Splichal said in a statement. “But the safety of our students and employees is always the top priority in our schools. If we cannot confirm that these glasses will provide adequate protection, we won’t risk that someone’s eyesight is damaged while using them.”
Splichal, who has shared a link to NASA’s livestreaming of the eclipse with school staff, also said he is confident alternative eclipse-related activities will make an enjoyable educational experience for students.
Kristin Magette, the district’s director of communications, said the glasses were purchased through Amazon, although she declined to name the specific seller. Eudora Schools Foundation and Eudora Elementary PTO members bought the counterfeit glasses months ago, Magette said, under the impression that they were made by American Paper Optics, one of four companies recommended by NASA as reputable eclipse glasses manufacturers.
After viewing a cautionary image of counterfeit APO shades on the company’s website, district, PTO and Eudora Schools Foundation leaders realized their purchases didn’t match the round lenses and narrow temples of legitimate APO glasses.
American Paper Optics is urging customers to look out for counterfeit versions of their NASA-approved glasses. Fake APO products have boxier, less rounded lenses — and wider, more circular temples — compared with their real counterparts.
“It’s frustrating that you do something in such good faith and well in advance,” Magette said of efforts by the Eudora School Foundation and PTO members. “They made a really generous gesture and helped us do something that we couldn’t have done on our own, and for them to then find out that they got scammed, it just stinks.”
Staff members were notified of the glasses’ questionable safety Friday morning, the district’s news release said, and have begun working to adapt Monday’s eclipse activities. Originally, the plan for many Eudora educators involved going outside to view the eclipse with students.
Employees have since been instructed to destroy or turn in any glasses provided through the schools.
“We are very grateful to the generosity of the PTO and Foundation for purchasing these glasses in the first place,” Splichal said in the news release. “They did nothing wrong when they made their purchases, and they’ve been invaluable collaborators as we have had to make this disappointing decision.”
Roughly $700 was spent on the 2,000-some counterfeit glasses meant for the entire district’s staff and student population, Magette estimated, several months ago when prices were considerably lower. Magette expects an effort will be made at some point to get a refund for the purchase. Right now, however, attentions are mostly focused on replanning learning activities and “turning over rocks” in search of legitimate glasses.
The district also considered purchasing safe replacements, Magette said, but is leery of the approximate $10,000 price tag (due to recent changes in supply and demand) associated with such a large order only days before the eclipse.
“What it came down to is we asked ourselves, ‘Is that the best investment for a lot of money for a very short period of time when we have no guarantee of the weather, either?'” Magette said, later adding, “When you have a budget, you have a budget, and you have to be realistic about what you want to spend it on.”
But Magette, who said she spent a lengthy portion of Friday fielding calls from parents, said she’s been encouraged by the good Samaritans who have offered to purchase for students whatever small numbers of eclipse glasses they can get their hands on. And fortunately for the district, families seem mostly accepting of Friday’s disappointing news and the administration’s decision to err on the side of caution, she said.
“People have been really, really generous to help us solve this problem, and we’re working on a couple possibilities that may or may not pan out,” Magette said. “But at this point we’re really focused on making sure that the indoor activities are as good as they can possibly be and that parents whose kids are in school feel like their child did not miss out.”
If it rains Monday, we might all be missing out on a perfect eclipse-viewing experience. The National Weather Service on Friday afternoon predicted a 40 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms in both Lawrence and Eudora the day of the eclipse.