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Editorial – Larger spaces should be used for community meetings

The next time the Prince Edward County School Board considers a plan to return children to in-person instruction, it would be helpful if they would hold the meeting in a space more compatible with the social distancing guidelines we are currently facing.

The board held its Wednesday evening, Oct. 7, meeting to discuss potentially exiting its current remote-learning environment in the same small conference room where the meetings are always held. The school system has access to large spaces such as gymnasiums and lunch rooms where participants could spread out and everyone could participate in the conversation.

The board required those who wished to speak at the meeting to sit in their cars and come inside to speak when called. Perhaps due to this inconvenience, only three people spoke at the meeting. The venue certainly did not invite inclusion of the public in the process.

At one point during the meeting, a student and a mother wanted to come in together to speak. The board asked that only the mother come into the room. The board should be encouraging its students to make their feelings known since they are the ones being directly affected by these decisions.

Contrast this meeting with the recent meeting of the Buckingham County School Board to discuss the same issue. The board met in a gymnasium with each board member socially distanced and using microphones. The citizens were also distanced inside the gymnasium as they had plenty of room to spread out.

It is important for our local governing bodies to make accommodations for the public when planning meetings. Using remote systems that consistently function properly and utilizing community venues with plenty of space are two ways boards can make sure the public continues to feel like it is a part of the process during this pandemic.

In a time when the public needs to make sure its governing bodies are listening to its concerns, our boards need to be creative and find ways to easily include the public in the process.

(The views in this editorial are of The Farmville Herald editorial staff. This editorial was written by Editor Roger Watson. He can be reached at Editor@FarmvilleHerald.com or (434) 808-0622.)