In a 4-1 vote, the Blaine school board decided to return to in-person meetings without a remote option at its June 20 regular meeting. Board member Erika Creydt dissented.
Since governor Jay Inslee issued Proclamation 20-28 February 29, 2020, which required remote access to public meetings, the school board has hosted meetings in a remote and hybrid format via Zoom. However, the governor lifted the requirement June 1, leaving the board to decide whether it would keep the more accessible option.
After the board’s May 25 meeting, the board decided to keep the Zoom option available for the June 20 meeting and consider the options for future meetings. Superintendent Christopher Granger said he understood it was the board’s desire to return to pre-pandemic ways.
The board approved a motion June 20 that read, “To return to board meeting policies that encourage in-person attendance and participation by citizens and ending makeshift streaming of board meetings.” Much of its decision came down to cost and what other school boards were doing.
Granger said the Ferndale school district was the only district in Whatcom County whose school board had a remote option. Granger said the cost of Ferndale’s video production, which is done through video production service Swagit Productions LLC, was $50,000 for the equipment, a one-time payment agreement of $4,890 and a monthly $1,650 management fee. He said cameras and microphones, which are not supplied, would cost from $12,000 to $15,000 and a staff member would need to be paid hourly to run the program.
“This would certainly be equivalent to the cost of a teacher’s salary as we look forward to a deficit budget in the future, if we don’t make changes,” Granger said.
Creydt said she spoke with a representative from Swagit before the meeting who said the company has multiple packages of varying costs.
Board president Dougal Thomas said if they are going to do it, they should spend the money to do it well. Thomas previously said the current Zoom model put added stress on staff.
Board member Don Leu, who proposed the motion, said he was also concerned about security and the risk of altered video.
Multiple board members said the board could implement virtual meetings in the future, if they see a greater need in the community to do so.
During the meeting, the board also adopted a new literacy curriculum called myPerspectives to be used at the Blaine High School. MyPerspectives is an English language arts curriculum for grades 6–12 that provides next-generation learning experiences for college and career readiness, according to its website.
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