With Colorado under shut in orders, local elected bodies are changing how they conduct public business.
In most cases, local school boards are no longer hosting a time to hear public comment during their virtual meetings, instead suggesting that public feedback be submitted in writing, and because of the emergency situation, several districts are changing meeting schedules, making it potentially tricky for the public to keep up.
But Colorado’s open meetings laws still apply when boards are meeting virtually. Districts must still provide notice of their meetings, and have a way for the public to watch or listen in.
Last month, the Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition joined several other organizations in signing a national statement asking government bodies to defer making noncritical policy decisions “until full and meaningful public involvement can be guaranteed.”
If business can’t be postponed, the organizations suggest that the public bodies should notify the public and explain how to participate remotely, use technology to maximize “real-time public engagement,” and promptly post the recording of the meeting online.
Several school boards in Colorado already had a way to livestream and post recordings of their meetings online, but even those processes are being adjusted to allow for school board members and the public to participate remotely. At least one district is looking at ways to provide translation during the video meetings, and officials from several others said they are still looking at ways to incorporate public comment.
Aurora school board President Kayla Armstrong-Romero said that the work is “trial and error” just like everything else that has changed in schools these days.
Aurora’s school board was one of the first to have a virtual school board meeting, on March 24. Armstrong-Romero said that the livestream had about 25 people watching — up from three or four during previous livesteams of in-person meetings.
“It’s still not great. None of this has been ideal,” Armstrong-Romero said. “We really want to engage the community, especially now in these uncertain times. If the public has any ideas, please reach out.”