Orono school board meetings and public comment periods at those meetings are changing slightly.
Beginning with the board meeting on Monday, Oct. 25, the Orono school board will replace the community comments period during its board meetings with a listening session preceding each board meeting. The purpose of this session is to provide community members an opportunity to address the board in person, the district said.
According to the school district, this is a common practice among Minnesota school districts and works well to maintain order and set higher standards for civility, dignity and respect while welcoming all perspectives.
The listening sessions will start at 6:15 p.m. and run until 6:45 p.m., prior to each board meeting. The session can accommodate up to 10 individuals speaking for approximately three minutes each.
If a resident wants to speak at the listening session, there is a protocol to follow.
Orono Schools students, parents/guardians, staff, and district residents are asked to register by Google form on the district website to be considered for a speaking slot during the session. The form will open beginning Friday at 9 a.m. before every board meeting and close by noon on the day of the board meeting.
If more than 10 individuals register to speak at the listening session, the board will select speakers with priority given to Orono students, Orono parents, district residents, and district staff. Priority will also be given to individuals who have not addressed the board in two previous meetings, and whose topic is on that evening’s board agenda. If more than 10 individuals meet the criteria and request to speak, a random selection process will be used.
The day of the listening session, speakers will be notified by email no later than 3 p.m. with their assigned three-minute time slot between 6:15 and 6:45 p.m. If a registrant does not receive an email with a time slot, then they have not been slated to speak at the session.
District residents are also invited to email a board member to share comments or concerns. Board members’ contact information is available at www.orono.k12.mn.us/school-board.
If there are no registrants for the listening session by noon the day of the board meeting, there will be no listening session that evening.
The sessions will be held in the District Office Assembly Room at 685 Old Crystal Bay Rd., Long Lake. Designated speakers should enter through Door E3, the district office main door. Six-foot seating arrangement for COVID-19 mitigation will be maintained for any waiting speakers.
The board chair, superintendent and up to two additional board members will attend these listening sessions on a rotating basis.
Speakers will be invited into the Assembly Room one at a time to share their comments. A waiting area for speakers will be located in the Intermediate School gym, with seating six-feet apart due to COVID-19 mitigations. Per the district’s Safe Return to Learning plan, masks will not be required in the district office building after 3:30 p.m. However, masks are strongly recommended during periods of high COVID-19 transmission.
A presentation timer with green, yellow and red lights will be on the speaker’s desk to show the time remaining and help manage the session schedule.
Once speakers have concluded their remarks, they may return to the Assembly Room to attend the board meeting in person though space is limited due to COVID-19 mitigations; or proceed to the band room (overflow room) and await a livestream of the board meeting; or return home and watch the board meeting online.
Listening sessions will not be recorded or livestreamed.
Board members will listen to comments and may ask questions, but will typically not respond during the session. All comments will be considered and, if deemed necessary, discussed with district administrators.
Professional decorum is expected at all times during listening sessions. If at any time there are any violations of the rules of decorum, the chair reserves the right to call a recess or end the listening session.
If speakers have more content than can be communicated in three minutes, comments should be shared by email with the board.
Board meetings will start promptly at 7 p.m. in the District Office Assembly Room. Community members are also welcome to attend a board meeting in person, with limited seating due to COVID-19 mitigations (seating six-feet apart). Overflow seating will also be available in the band room through Door E4 near the playground. E4 doors will open at 6:45 p.m. Attendees will be expected to follow the rules of order.
Beginning Oct. 25, the board meeting will be livestreamed via an Orono School Board YouTube channel. The link will be posted on the 2021-22 board meetings webpage by the day of the meeting. The board will maintain its customary practice of recording and posting meetings on the district website. There will be no opportunity for public comment during regular board meetings.