Steamboat School Board planning return to in-person meetings by at least October
The Steamboat Springs School Board is making plans to return to in-person meetings and is eyeing Steamboat Springs Middle School as a potential location.
Meetings have been virtual since the early weeks of the pandemic, but as nearly all elected officials in the county have returned to meeting in person, the school board has not, citing cramped quarters where the district has traditionally held board meetings at the district office on Seventh Street in Steamboat.
Still, the current meeting place is part of board policy, which would require multiple meetings to change, meaning the first in-person meeting is likely more than a month off.
“The middle school with their addition they have on, we improved the sound system there; they do have that stage in the cafeteria area,” Superintendent Brad Meeks said in a board meeting Monday. “We can manage the space there, too; so if we had 100 people show up or 200 people, we’ve got room to seat more people.”
Even before the pandemic, when there was a popular topic on the agenda, Board President Kelly Latterman said it would be standing room only, with some people forced to wait outside of the meeting room in the hallway.
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Moving the meetings to the middle school is appealing because it would allow more space for social distancing during the pandemic so they could accommodate large crowds at meetings.
Board policy GP-19 states that regular board meetings will be held at the district office. This policy would need to be updated to move the meetings to the middle school, which requires board members to approve multiple readings of the new policy before it can take affect.
The board directed Meeks to further explore what the logistics of moving board meetings to the middle school would be, including if the district would need to purchase any furniture or additional technology to make the meetings work.
Meeks said he would report back at the next board meeting Sept. 13. The board could then approve the first reading of the amended board policy at that meeting and the second at a meeting Sept. 27. That would line up the Oct. 11 meeting to be the earliest the board could return to in-person meetings with the public.
“We’re like a month or two out from being able to change venues,” said Board Vice President Katy Lee, who was running Monday’s meeting.
Board member Chresta Brinkman said she wanted to try to find a way for people to participate in board meetings virtually even though the meeting would be held in person. Meeks said the logistics of that could be difficult, but the board would continue to livestream the meetings online.
The Routt County Board of Commissioners and Steamboat Springs City Council both allow virtual participation at their in-person meetings.
Latterman said the district would likely need another staff member to help out during board meetings if they were to take virtual public comment in addition to comment in person at meetings.
“We want to talk about if it justifies the cost,” Latterman said. “I hear what (Brinkman) is saying, but it makes sense that when we are in person, we have in-person public comment. When we are online, we have online public comment.”
Letterman said board members are able to receive comment from the public through emails or phone calls if they are not able to attend in person.
Lee, who has been acting in the president’s role while Latterman is on maternity leave, said it is already difficult to manage all the various aspects of a meeting on Zoom, and trying to manage an in-person meeting at the same time would be “pretty challenging.”
Latterman said if they were going to consider purchasing furniture or technology to accommodate meetings at the middle school, it makes sense to make the move permanent and not just a pandemic fix.
Meeks said he would want to work with the school’s schedule to ensure that students get priority for the space, and they can try to shape the board’s meeting schedule around any planned school events. Latterman suggested the new policy could still allow meetings to happen at the district office or online to accommodate the situation.
“Maybe it will work where a lot of their events are not on Monday,” Meeks said. “I will work with staff here, and we will report out at the next meeting what it will take to get the board meetings going at the middle school.”
To reach Dylan Anderson, call 970-871-4247 or email danderson@SteamboatPilot.com.
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