For the first time in more than a year, in-person public meetings are now being held. The change is the result of the Yakima County moving to Phase 2 in the Governor’s Roadmap to Recovery Plan.
Leading the charge to host an open meeting was the Sunnyside School Board which moved from strictly virtual meetings to combination of in-person and Zoom meeting at its Feb. 22 board meeting.
While an audience of 10 filling a fraction of 700-seat auditorium, school administration is pleased with the evening.
“I think the meeting went well. We have to make a few adjustments,” School Board Chairperson Michelle Perry acknowledged.
Perry led the move to return to in-person meetings after receiving word from Washington State School Directors Association, advising that regions in Phase 2 could do so.
“As soon as I received that email, I asked for our meetings to be in-person and at the auditorium. Our location change is due to being able to have a place that allows more attendees and an overflow area,” the chairperson explained.
“We had some concerns with space, which is why the auditorium was chosen. We continue to follow the Yakima Health Department’s social distancing and masking regulations, which continue to be observed,” School District Superintendent Keven McKay remarked.
He noted there were a few technical challenges – such as audio volume which will be worked out when the board meets for its work study session on March 1, also to be held at the auditorium.
“Still, we were able to accomplish what we intended,” McKay remarked.
Perry said she felt it was important for the board to meet in person. “We are asking our staff to work in person with students. I think it’s important we model that, previously, per the governor’s order we could not legally meet in person,” she explained.
Meanwhile, Sunnyside Councilman Mike Farmer is eager to return to in-person meetings.
Farmer, who has felt uncomfortable with the virtual council meetings since the beginning, said “I like to look at the people I’m talking to. You can tell a lot from those expressions.”
The council member has also been unhappy about the lack of public comment at the meetings, something that has happened only rarely in the past year.
Plans are now in the works to hold City Council meetings at the Community Center, 1521 S. First St., as soon as technology issues can be arranged, City Manager Martin Casey announced on Thursday, Feb. 25.
“In addition, the council meetings will continue to stream online via Zoom as well,” he noted.
Casey said all public health protocols will be closely observed.
School District Board meetings will continue to be held in-person and virtually through the end of the school year and possibility into the summer, as needed, McKay reported.