To the Editor:
When Covid hit, we all struggled to figure out how to get back to life while continuing to protect ourselves. Online access became the norm and emerged as a surprising opportunity for community members to participate in activities and meetings that were not previously possible due to work or family responsibilities, lack of transportation, or childcare options.
Previously, our School District was a role model for hybrid education and access. Additionally, they encouraged board meeting participation with remote access and public comment through Zoom and written submissions. Concerned parents could now join in ways that otherwise would have been impossible. Remote participation allowed single parents and others without the ability to get to meetings a chance to be involved in the education system.
It is counterintuitive that the HVRSD Board of Education announced that at future board meetings, “Public comments will be accepted in-person only. There will not be an opportunity for those watching the live stream to comment.” – Especially when COVID cases are rising locally.
I have reached out to the Board of Education and have asked that they reconsider their position.
While the pandemic was awful for everyone, the reality is that COVID did not impact every population equally. The crisis hit especially hard for those struggling financially, and single parents. Opening a way for them to continue to participate in the world while continuing to care for their children and work is a silver lining that proved invaluable.
Finally, the timing of this change in policy is especially concerning since the district reported that they are seeing increased COVID cases in students and staff in the same week they announced that they will require the public to attend Board Meetings in-person to be heard.
Maximizing public participation in Board meetings is important. We are taking a step backwards, in terms of access, equity, and continued involvement, to require in-person attendance to have your opinion heard.
I am running to join the HVRSD Board and will encourage them to create an education system that finds a way to keep the community safe and take all points of view into consideration.
Edited at 12:12pm 9/22 to correct hyperlink.