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Pasco School Board to begin livestreaming its meetings

Board member Megan Harding has pushed for the change since her 2018 election.
The Pasco County School Board began video recording its business meetings in July 2019. It plans to begin live streaming the sessions on Feb. 2, 2021.
The Pasco County School Board began video recording its business meetings in July 2019. It plans to begin live streaming the sessions on Feb. 2, 2021. [ Pasco County Schools ]
Published Feb. 1

The Pasco County School Board long has resisted the trend of airing its meetings live online for public consumption.

This week, that position changes.

Beginning with its 9 a.m. Tuesday session, the board will follow the footsteps of its neighboring governments in airing its business for residents to follow along.

“I’m so happy,” said board member Megan Harding, who has pressed to livestream the activity since her 2018 election. “I think it will help people stay more engaged.”

That was her rationale for pursuing the idea two years ago. Harding campaigned on the need for the district to become more accessible to the general public.

Her colleagues didn’t oppose the concept outright. But they had reasons to not follow through, such as a desire to avoid grandstanding for the camera, and a concern over the cost of equipment and personnel.

After months of conversation, the board reluctantly agreed later to video record the sessions and post them on YouTube afterward.

The only time it deviated came during the first months of the coronavirus pandemic, when large gatherings were disallowed as part of the effort to prevent spreading the illness. Government had to continue operating in the public, and Gov. Ron DeSantis signed an order allowing for remote meetings.

The board responded by attempting to stream its meeting video, and soon changed to audio only meetings aired on its site.

Related: Pasco School Board plans public hearing with public at a distance

As students returned to classes, though, the board decided that it had to reopen as well. It welcomed the public back into its meeting room, and stopped livestreaming the sessions.

By then, though, members of the public had become accustomed to hearing the discussions in real time.

“A lot of people were listening,” Harding said, adding that many wanted to know why the practice had stopped. “I just kept asking about it.”

After working through the technical details, the administration took the plunge. District spokesman Steve Hegarty said the link to the live meeting will be posted on the board’s Internet web page about 10 minutes before the session begins.

The district eventually intends to have a permanent landing page to watch the meetings, which also will be archived.