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In-person municipal, school meetings slowly resume

After more than a year of meeting virtually due to COVID-19, local school and municipal boards are transitioning back to meeting in-person

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After more than a year of meeting virtually due to COVID-19, local school and municipal boards are transitioning back to meeting in-person.

Deerfield Village Administrator Elizabeth McCredie said the Deerfield Village Board will meet in-person at 7 p.m. April 12 at the Deerfield Fire Station, 305 N. Industrial Park Road. The last time it did that was March 23, 2020.

McCredie said in an email that the April 12 meeting is at the fire station because social distancing, still required by Dane County public health order, isn’t possible in the village hall’s small meeting room.

The village board is currently considering options for a new village hall, in part because of cramped conditions in the current space.

Cambridge

Cambridge Village Administrator Lisa Moen said the village board will meet virtually on April 13 but is talking about soon returning to in-person.

In an email, Moen said concerns about keeping meeting attendees socially distanced will weigh on that decision.

“With a number of hot topics on the agendas right now, we are concerned that we will not have enough room for people while still social distancing,” Moen said.

“Our hope is to be moving in the direction of in-person meetings in coming months,” Moen said.

She said she made an administrative decision to move the April 14, 2020 village board meeting to a virtual format. At that meeting, the village board endorsed an emergency declaration that had been signed by Village President Mark McNally on March 19. Tied into that was a decision to halt in-person meetings.

Other local boards have been meeting in-person throughout the pandemic, however.

Town Boards

The town of Oakland is in Jefferson County, where COVID-19 restrictions have not been as restrictive as in Dane County. The Oakland Town Board has been meeting in-person throughout the pandemic.

The Cambridge Community Fire and EMS Commission has also been meeting in-person since last year at the Oakland Town Hall. It moved its meetings to Oakland due to the pandemic from the normal location at the Cambridge Fire and EMS station. The station is in Dane County.

The Christiana Town Board met virtually from August to October 2020, then began resuming in-person meetings.

However, it has since reverted at least once back to a virtual format when due to something on the agenda, a meeting was poised to draw a crowd that exceeded numbers allowed by county gathering rules.

Town Clerk/Treasurer Kathy Wilson said the town chair sets the agendas and makes the call on whether meetings will be virtual or in-person.

“Our town hall can only accommodate 43 people safely with social distancing and masking in place,” Wilson wrote in an email. A new Dane County public health order that goes into effect this week “does not change those safety requirements,” Wilson said.

And the Deerfield Town Board has been meeting in-person throughout the pandemic at the Deerfield Community Center. In recent months, audiences have been able to join in virtually.

School boards

The Deerfield School Board has been meeting in-person for most of the pandemic, socially distanced in the Deerfield High School commons.

“When the state shut down last spring, we held a few virtual board meetings,” Superintendent Michelle Jensen said, but quickly went back to in-person meetings that were allowed under public health guidelines.

In an email, Jensen said Deerfield’s in-person board meetings haven’t been shared virtually, but they are recorded and available to watch later on Deerfield’s public access cable station, WDEE.

Those who have inquired “seemed happy about that option,” Jensen said.

The Cambridge School Board, meanwhile, has accomodated both in-person and virtual audiences at its meetings.

The board voted in March 2020 to allow community and board members to participate either through technology or in-person. Its first virtual meeting was March 23.

District administrative assistant Mary Kay Raether said in-person attendance at meetings, held in the Cambridge High School library or district office, has always been an option.

Raether said she doesn’t expect the school board to stop streaming its meetings over Zoom any time soon. Going back to only in-person meetings, Raether said, wouldn’t require board action.

Dane County

Regionally, the Dane County Board and its committees are currently scheduled to meet remotely at least through April.

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