Mason School Board moves to online meetings amid Pandemic

Henri Robbins | Online Editor

School might be out for the year, but the school board isn’t!

The Mason School Board had their first meeting since the district moved to online learning on Tuesday, April 14. The meeting, during which members of the board and school administrators all joined in a group video conference, was live streamed via YouTube. At the meeting, attendees discussed changes regarding online learning, shared some of the happenings within the district, and showed a community-made video in which Mason families provided messages of encouragement. 

Board President Charles Galvin said the board’s decision to move to online meetings followed the recommendation of Governor Mike DeWine, after he initially made the decision to shut down schools until April 3, but later extended the closure to May 1. 

“We are incorporating some of the practices that you might have seen other public bodies use, based on new guidance from the state,” Galvin said. “The legislature passed laws on open meetings that allow public bodies to meet via telecommuting or online meetings. Zoom and Google and some other platforms have been popular so far, so that’s what we’re planning to do. People should be able to tune in and watch us online.” 

Since it was announced that classes would no longer be in-person, the board has been working to help provide students with the same resources that they previously had in school, along with assisting students who rely on Mason City Schools for lunches. 

“The adjustment to remote learning is the biggest (issue we’ve had to face),” Galvin said. “Making sure students and families are equipped to access remote learning opportunities, making sure that students that would typically be on free or reduced lunches are able to access food while they’re at home, things like that are probably the biggest issues that we have. Going forward, trying to figure these things out and be proactive about them is what we’re trying to do.”

Although Mason residents cannot physically attend the meetings, Galvin said that the district is aiming to keep them as engaged as before. Currently, board members are working on an alternate way for community members to be able to present issues to them similar to how they were able to previously. 

“We expect that people will be able to address the board, it just probably won’t be in the same manner as it’s been in the past,” Galvin said. “With social distancing we can’t really have people in the same room during these meetings, so we’re going to make it clear in our notice how they can address us, especially if it’s something that we talk about in the meeting that they see, they can let us know what their thoughts are. “

Along with that, the board is going to be meeting more frequently, and they have plans to make their system faster to allow for more immediate changes that might need to be made. 

“As far as public meetings go, you’ll see the same rhythm that we’d been having before,” Galvin said. “I’m still communicating with our superintendent and trying to give him the latitude to act nimbly so that, if there’s some swift action that needs to be taken to address some of the coronavirus issues, the administration is equipped to do that and they don’t necessarily need to wait on us to do that. “

As the board continues to work on new solutions for problems that the community is facing, Galvin said that they are starting to see more clearly how broad of an impact their work has. 

“I think at this time, we’re really seeing how much our community values and relies on our school district,” Galvin said. “There’s a lot of folks in our community who rely on our school, for instance, for food, so we’ve had to scramble and arrange for meal pickups around Mason. We want to make sure that we can continue providing that even when we’re not physically allowed in the building.”

The video recording of the meeting can be found here, with the public meeting beginning around the 1:30:00 mark.