It would resume when in-person meetings resume

The Farmington Area School Board agreed during its Feb. 8 meeting that it would offer video recordings of its work sessions after it starts meeting in-person.

Currently the School Board offers the public to stream and view archived work sessions, which are being held via videoconference since the COVID-19 pandemic moved them online. Prior to the pandemic, the district did not video record meetings, as audio recordings were available upon request.

New Board Member Hannah Simmons suggested continuing video recordings of work sessions and posting them online since she said as a resident it was difficult to follow the meetings by listening to the audio and downloading the materials.

She said having all of the regular business meetings (scheduled twice a month) and the work sessions (more informal sessions to discuss topics of interest) in one place online at the district’s current YouTube page would be more convenient for residents.

Simmons said it was difficult to follow the work sessions since she didn’t know the voices and didn’t know who was speaking. Board Member Steve Corraro said in some audio recordings he listened to he couldn’t hear everyone.

Board Member Kyle Christensen, who is also new to the board, agreed with Simmons’ suggestion on video recording, saying it would add greater transparency.

Board Chair Melissa Sauser said the board has gone back and forth in offering video recordings for work sessions. In 2020, the School Board held four work sessions.

She said the district offered them for a time before logistics became an issue in the Little Theater at Boeckman Middle School. They were revived again when meetings were moved to Farmington City Hall.

The board doesn’t have a timeline for when it would start to meet in-person.

Superintendent Jason Berg suggested that when the board returns to in-person work sessions, they could be held in the Lecture Room at Farmington High School.

Board members didn’t have particular thoughts about the production value of the recordings. They wanted the meetings to have clear audio and allow people to recognize who was speaking.

Simmons, who is on the city’s Economic Development Authority, said the EDA is meeting in-person and following social distancing.

School boards in Lakeville and Rosemount-Apple Valley-Eagan are meeting in-person for regular meetings and work sessions with social distancing and mask requirements.

The Lakeville Area School Board decided in January to stop video recording its work sessions. Since that time, it has not audio recorded them either. In making the decision, District 194 board members and Superintendent Michael Baumann cited that the video recording inhibited candid discussion.

Farmington School Board Member Jaclyn Doyle said the District 192 board’s previous discussions touched on that people are less candid on camera. With all of the meetings on video in the pandemic, she says being on video is the norm.

Sauser said it is important to have the meetings as accessible to the public as possible.

She added that if public wishes to address an issue to the board at a remote meeting they can send the chair a letter and it will be read in the meeting.

At its Feb. 22 meeting the board will consider action to offer the video recordings when it returns to in-person meetings, in addition to moving its regular meeting and work session start times from the current 6:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. If approved, the new start time would begin with the March 8 regular meeting.

An informal January 2021 survey of public school districts in Minnesota by Adams Publishing Group found that less than half (22 out of 50) provide archived video or audio recordings of school board work sessions.

Tad Johnson can be reached at tad.johnson@ecm-inc.com.

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