Many Bay Area school board meetings are back in person, but not all are allowing parents to attend remotely – OlxPraca

It wasn’t until the pandemic that Val Ryaboff began attending Cupertino Union School District board meetings, waiting online for hours to deliver less than three-minute remarks as he and other parents made sure Fight to return the district to personal learning.

Despite having a 12-year-old son who has been in CUSD schools since kindergarten, Ryaboff did not attend the twice-monthly board meetings that ran into the evening at the district’s Sunnyvale headquarters.

But the pandemic changed the landscape for public meetings, sending them to Zoom in 2020 and allowing parents and residents to dial in from their homes to provide public comments for the first time.

As the Bay Area continues to find its way through a new normal with rising waves of Covid-19, many local governments have begun meeting in person again, some still allowing people to participate remotely. Allowing and nothing else.

That was the case in CUSD until July 20, when parents found out they had to attend meetings in person to speak to the board. There was a backlash from parents and on August 2, the district reversed course and effectively brought back the comment authority.

Before the Aug. 2 ruling, Ryabov, who also has a 2-year-old son, said the impact would be “tremendous.”

“If I’m on call, I can take care of my 2-year-old, I can spend time with my 12-year-old, I can do a lot of things while being called and listening and waiting. Talking. Turn to,” he said of remote participation. “If I have to attend in person, it all falls on my wife.”

After initially saying the district was focusing on returning to its “pre-pandemic practices,” district spokeswoman Erin Lindsey said she changed course because she “heard from stakeholders that virtual comments allow for greater engagement, some CUSD values”.

Earlier this year, the Palo Alto Unified School District was in a similar situation to CUSD and blocked public comment remotely. But after complaints from parents, the school board decided to accept remote comments in the new school year.

Some of the Bay Area’s largest school districts have returned to their pre-pandemic practices in the past year, however, there are no signs of a return to the hybrid model.

The Mount Diablo Unified School District in Contra Costa County has not accepted remote public comments since the board stopped meeting on Zoom in August 2021. And the San Jose Unified School District stopped participating remotely in May 2021 when its meetings were scheduled to resume as well. the person.

Oakland Unified, San Francisco Unified and Santa Clara Unified school districts still allow parents to call from home and have no plans to change that at this time, according to a district spokeswoman.

CUSD parent Ivan Kuznetsov, who has a son in the district, said the remote commenting option is especially important for immigrant parents like himself.

“Not everyone is comfortable expressing their opinions and speaking truth to power,” he said. “And setting this example, this visible example where people see that hey it’s okay to make a public comment and other parents like me are doing it. It definitely encourages other people to speak up who might not otherwise. Know when someone is sending an email.

Assemblyman Alex Lee (D-San Jose) called remote public comment one of the “silver linings” of the pandemic. The first-term lawmaker has introduced two separate bills — both of which failed — related to remote access and live streaming of local government meetings.

“That’s why it’s important to keep it going, otherwise only the people who are real are the people who are physically present in the room,” he said. “That’s why when school districts or city councils remove public comment options, I really think we’re taking some serious steps backwards and we’re not learning from the pandemic at all.”

Community engagement manager Rocio Molina said that going forward, groups like Catalyze SV, a nonprofit focused on community engagement, recommends that local agencies continue to work in hybrid formats “to to ensure that no community is left behind in the critical conversation,” said Community Engagement Manager Rocio Molina.

“Right now,” he added, “flexibility and adaptability are the name of the game when it comes to community engagement.”