Pasco School Board will meet again, but not in person

Members say they want to keep safe, but keep doing business.
Pasco County School Board members and senior staff keep their distance at an April 7, 2020, meeting. Two members attended via phone.
Pasco County School Board members and senior staff keep their distance at an April 7, 2020, meeting. Two members attended via phone. [ Pasco County school district/YouTube ]
Published Apr. 15, 2020|Updated Apr. 16, 2020

The last time the Pasco School Board met, members insisted on maintaining a twice-a-month schedule to continue with business as usual.

They’re ready to gather again on Tuesday. But the format won’t be normal.

Instead of meeting face-to-face, with opportunities for the public to comment in person on agenda items, the board will hold a fully telephonic session in order to keep with the statewide social distancing effort.

Only chairwoman Colleen Beaudoin is planning to have one other official — board attorney Dennis Alfonso — in the same location with her, so she can be sure the board is operating legally in everything it does.

She said she simply feels more comfortable being able to quickly get advice without any garbled words over a phone line, or time lag over the YouTube stream.

Related: Florida school boards try to balance coronavirus emergency with sunshine

Otherwise, everyone will be staying away from each other as they discuss issues such as the Imagine School’s request to increase its maximum enrollment and Zephyrhills High School’s proposal to name its weight room after former coach Bruce Cimorelli.

Overall, the items up for consideration are relatively light. But superintendent Kurt Browning and his staff also expect to update the board on the latest efforts to deal with school closures, which include a growing free meal distribution and attempts to reach students who have not yet responded to remote learning.

The board will consider purchasing 200 additional Wi-fi hotspots, at a cost of $86,520, to give to families whose children need internet access for their school work.

Some early talk about the coming year’s budget also might take place.

The public will not be cut out of the conversation, despite the lack of a physical place to go. They can either email comments to the board in advance, or call the teleconference and have the opportunity to speak at the regular time in the agenda.

The number is 1-877-271-1828, and the passcode 44495805.

The board has said it does not intend to take input on non-agenda items during the coronavirus emergency. At its previous meeting, no one asked to speak either in person or remotely.

Board member Megan Harding said she did not view the arrangement as ideal. But the board needs to get its work done.

“I would rather be in person,” she said. “But it’s not the safest thing right now.”