The presentation, delivered by superintendent Marc Schaffer and prepared by the board during a recent retreat, came only a day after the Loveland City Council debated whether to eliminate remote comment from their public meetings.
Neither the school board or the City Council took action on the changes, which will take place at future meetings, but a consensus was clear in both cases: The school board supports allowing citizens to comment remotely, and the City Council appears likely to limit it.
Both bodies included in their anticipated changes the option to limit individual commenters’ time equally, as well as moving some commenters to the end of the meeting, in the event that too many people sign up to speak.
Both boards have received floods of public commenters over the past year hoping to speak about issues like mask mandates and COVID-19 responses in schools, and the arrest of Karen Garner and a proposed tobacco ban in the city.
School Board Vice President Dawn Kirk said that the reasoning behind the potential changes to time allotments and moving some commenters to the end of the meeting is to enable public participation in all of the board’s business.
In recent months, items before the board that citizens might have been interested in were not considered until hours into the meeting after every public commenter had been given a chance to speak. The ability to postpone some comments until after the board’s other business would allow people to engage with other aspects of the board’s activities.
“What we’ve had feedback on for months is that that has been challenging because our meetings have gone so long, and we’ve had people present at midnight,” Kirk said.
Nancy Rumfelt, a director on the board of education who, prior to her election in November, was a frequent commenter at board meetings herself, often criticizing their approach to the pandemic, supported the school board’s proposal, including the ability to limit commenters’ time or move comments to the end of the meeting.
“As someone who even before being on the board has cherished the ability to speak before the board, I have also always understood that the board does have work to do,” Rumfelt said. “The reality is that I don’t think it will happen very often that comments get moved to the end. And if it does it means there’s some significant issue happening in the community,” she said.
She added that the community has to remember that the board still has staff presentations and needs to move through the agenda and make decisions. “But we still are very much interested in what people have to say,” she said.
“I’m excited about this, I feel like what’s on paper now is going to be able to meet those needs,” Kirk said.
The board will vote to enact the changes at its next meeting on Jan. 15.