The Mesa Public Schools Governing Board has become the second in the East Valley to begin welcoming the public to its meetings, but that’s not likely to happen for the boards of Ahwatukee’s two school systems any time soon.
Mesa Superintendent Dr. Andi Fourlis last week got the board to sign on to her recommendation to reopen board meetings to in-person visitors Sept. 8 – a move Gilbert Public Schools made early last month.
But Kyrene Governing Board won’t be allowing the general public in until at least November and Tempe Union officials are still mulling when board meetings can be open, spokespersons for each district told AFN.
“We have our eye on safety first and foremost,” said Megan Sterling, executive director of community relations for Tempe Union.
Stating the district will evaluate COVID-19 data from the state and county health departments prior to each meeting, Sterling said the regular meeting slated for tonight, Sept. 2, will be virtual and “the next meeting after that is Sept. 16 and is TBD for now.”
Erin Helm, marketing director for Kyrene School District, told AFN that the board “will continue to follow the same protocols as schools by limiting visitors, preventing gatherings of large groups and only allowing necessary personnel to attend.
“Both schools and the district have committed to these restrictions of public gatherings through at least Oct. 31 and until county benchmarks reach minimal spread level. Even at that time, cautionary measures will likely be in place,” Helm added.
Mesa’s school board will practice social distancing and will limit the number of citizens who can physically attend. A spokeswoman for the district said officials were still working on a plan to determine how people who want to attend will be selected, such as by random drawings.
School boards and municipal councils, as well as most other panels that conduct regular hearings, began live-streaming their meetings in March as the pandemic gained a foothold in Arizona.
Although the state’s open-meetings law does not require them to allow people to speak, most do – but that has been difficult in virtual sessions.
Some governing bodies, such as Phoenix City Council, allow citizens to reserve a time to actually call into a meeting to have their say.
Others, like Kyrene and Tempe Union, require citizens to email statements they’d like to have read into the record.