The Mountain View Los Altos Union High School District Board of Trustees is planning Monday (March 22) to run its first in-person board meeting in over a year. The public is expected to be able to participate face-to-face and over Zoom.
Board president Fiona Walter and Superintendent Nellie Meyer initially gave conflicting information on whether the public would be allowed to attend in person, before confirming that attendees would be permitted.
Walter said in a Monday morning interview that she expected the public to be able to attend. Meyer initially told the Town Crier the same thing, but then reversed herself and said the public would stay remote, before switching again and saying in an email that community members could attend in person.
According to Walter, there had been an internal miscommunication, but members of the public will be able to attend. Meyer didn’t respond to follow-up requests for comment before the Town Crier’s deadline.
The meeting is slated for a 7 p.m. start in Alta Vista High School’s multi-use room, 1325 Bryant Ave., Mountain View. The board will meet for a virtual closed session beforehand at 5 p.m., before traveling to Alta Vista for the 7 p.m. open session.
The district’s board has met remotely since last March, when the coronavirus pandemic shuttered school campuses. The board has been meeting over Zoom, with members of the public able to call in and comment. For tonight’s meeting, community members can still join the meeting via Zoom but can also show up at Alta Vista.
MVLA’s move comes as the district prepares to bring teachers back to lead in-person classes next month. The district plans to use a hybrid model, with students on campus part-time starting April 22. Walter said the timing felt right for the board to also come back, both with schools reopening and Santa Clara County expected to drop into the less-restrictive orange tier in the state’s COVID-19 framework this week.
“It just seems very appropriate,” Walter said. “The MVLA team is being asked to come back and we’re part of that team.”
Precautions in place
Many other local school districts and other governing bodies are still meeting fully remotely. The Los Altos School District has a remote board meeting scheduled tonight, and both the Los Altos City Council and Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors are set to have remote meetings Tuesday.
The Palo Alto Unified School District is hosting meetings where board members and staff are face-to-face, but public participation is still all online. Officials from the Fremont Union High School District and Santa Clara Unified School District both confirmed that they are still remote but considering going back to in-person meetings. Neither Meyer nor Walter knew of any local districts that have already reopened physical board meetings to the public.
After meetings moved online last spring, MVLA and other districts have seen the number of public commenters increase, with attendees able to participate from their own homes. Both Meyer and Walter said the move to in-person meetings isn’t intended to reduce public comment, and that they are retaining the option for the public to participate remotely.
“We’re not taking away any previously held opportunity to contribute,” Meyer said.
The district is putting a number of safety measures in place for those who choose to show up in person, including spacing attendees 6 feet apart and requiring masks, Meyer said.
The plan is for the board to be spaced apart using multiple 8-foot folding tables, with one trustee at each end of a table. Plastic partitions are also likely to be set up, Associate Superintendent Mike Mathiesen said.
Educators became eligible to get vaccinated against COVID-19 at the end of February, which includes school board members and district administrators, Meyer said.
The HVAC system will be running constantly to circulate air, and Mathiesen said he anticipates that doors will remain open. Hand sanitizer also will be available.
Mathiesen said the district is taking all county and state health guidance into consideration when planning the meeting, but didn’t have an answer for which particular set of rules would apply to the board meeting.
Santa Clara County didn’t respond to questions before the Town Crier’s press deadline about whether these types of meetings are currently allowable and if the county thinks they are advisable.
To view the meeting agenda, which includes the Zoom sign-up link, visit bit.ly/3fcPIL0.