It’s like a livestream turned into a dry gulch.
In 2022, Coquitlam school board meetings were livestreamed. If you were curious about ballooning budgets, teacher layoffs, student mental health or sluggish school construction, you could tune in from the comfort of your couch to see what your elected school board was doing about it.
In 2023, you have to head to 1080 Winslow Avenue in Coquitlam to watch those meetings in-person.
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As far as we can tell, it’s a change without a benefit.
In an era when everything from yoga classes to therapy sessions to religious worship is livestreamed, District #43’s neo-Luddite decision to go offline is puzzling, mainly because we can’t envision any scenario in which offering fewer ways to watch meetings will result in people being better informed.
Let’s be honest: most parents wouldn’t watch a school board meeting if it was held in their living room.
Meetings are generally held at 6:30 or 7 p.m., just about the time parents are trying to finish up work, get dinner on the table, and figure out why they’re just finding out now that their child needs a rhinoceros costume by tomorrow morning.
Still, parents and students should be able to watch a meeting, ask a question, and find out why those decisions are being made with as few barriers as possible.
In Surrey, the district livestreams their school board meetings. And if you miss the livestream, you can catch the video on the district’s website.
The goal, explained a Surrey school district representative, is to: “make these meetings as accessible as possible.”
More or less the same practice is followed in Vancouver, North Vancouver, Richmond, and New Westminster. So if it can be done, why aren’t we doing it?
A school board representative explained that in-person meetings were preferred among a cross-section of groups. We understand that, we just struggle to understand why an in-person meeting can’t be livestreamed.
On Tuesday, the board will likely grapple with inflation, provincial funding, and challenges with enrolment during a scheduled budget meeting.
It’s crucial parents and students know who’s managing the school district and, more importantly, how they’re managing it.
The good news is that there’s an elegant solution: do what you did before. Put the meetings online.
School District #43 has a technology department that aims, in part, to: “provide secure, managed, seamless, responsive technology solutions, and quality support for teachers, students, staff, and the public.”
It’s time to put that technology to good use. We lost Firefly, Veronica Mars and Mindhunter. Let’s not lose this show, too.
Stream on, School District #43. Stream on.