The board of education discussed meeting time policy at the Oct. 26 meeting. Screenshot, Comox Valley Schools

The board of education discussed meeting time policy at the Oct. 26 meeting. Screenshot, Comox Valley Schools

Comox Valley board of education looks for flexibility on meeting endings

Issue was the subject of a contentious debate among trustees at meeting last year

The board of education wants to set some new parameters for the duration of meetings.

At the monthly meeting on Oct. 26, the trustees considered a suggestion from the policy committee to uphold meeting adjournment times for no later than 9 p.m. but to offer options to extend the discussion if necessary.

Committee chair Michelle Waite introduced the policy, which came out of a discussion from the Oct. 21 committee meeting.

“Our committee reviewed this over several meetings,” she said. “We looked at all sorts of other boards and their timelines and their processes.”

The recommendation for Policy 7-4.15 is to have meetings, typically starting at 7 p.m., end by 9 p.m. or two hours after beginning, whichever comes first.

A majority of trustees present could vote to extend the meeting by a half-hour, with the meeting only continuing past the 30-minute extension — presumably, 9:30 p.m. — if all members agree on staying longer, to a maximum time of 11 p.m.

Trustee Janice Caton noted the measure was really designed for exceptional circumstances.

“Very rarely does a board go past 9, 9:30,” she said.

The flexibility is considered a way to give trustees a little more time to discuss an item without having to reconvene for a follow-up meeting on a subsequent day, especially if something has been placed on the agenda as a late item.

“Sometimes late things come to the board,” she said. “We thought this was a really good compromise.”

The board voted to receive the changes and suggestions for the policy. Secretary-treasurer Brenda Hooker added the district will have to update its accompanying procedural bylaw on the issue.

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The issue of when to end meetings was the topic of a contentious discussion at a board meeting just prior to the start of the 2020-21 school year. At that meeting, then-chair Ian Hargreaves wanted to keep the end time at 9 a.m., with no exceptions unless it was unanimous to extend a meeting. His reason was for trustees to avoid “decision by exhaustion.” A majority of the board though decided they wanted to look into the matter more, so the issue was ultimately sent to the policy committee.

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School District 71