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CMS Board Will Try Zoom Public Hearing On Budget

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The CMS board did its first Zoom meeting March 31.

Want to give the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school board your thoughts on the budget or the coronavirus closing plan? If all goes well, members of the public will be able to use Zoom to offer three-minute comments at Wednesday's board meeting.

Here's how it works: Board members will conduct the meeting using the online meeting program, streaming it through Facebook live. That's to keep everyone at home and limit the spread of the coronavirus, of course.

People who sign up to speak -- either at a formal public hearing on the 2020-21 budget or the monthly general comment time -- should email nicole1.kelly@cms.k12.nc.us. They'll get a Zoom code to enter a virtual waiting room. When their turn to speak comes, they'll be patched in so the board -- and anyone watching the virtual meeting -- can see and hear them.

Comments will be limited to three minutes, just like in-person meetings. Charles Jeter, the board's policy director, says the system lets people interact "as if they were at the dais."

"People can see what they say. They can say it with the tone and inflection that they feel is important to what they say, with the passion of what their issue is," Jeter said Monday.

For those who can't do the live virtual meeting, CMS is also offering the option to send a statement of up to 375 words to the same email address. Sign-ups and statements are due by noon Wednesday -- and yes, the meeting is Wednesday, instead of the normal Tuesday.

The CMS website has information about the district's $1.6 billion budget proposal.

Government bodies across America are trying to figure out how to comply with public meeting laws at a time when it's not safe for people to pack into a meeting chamber. CMS tried its first Zoom/Facebook meeting last week and the interface didn't work -- the meeting started about 30 minutes late, using a work-around.

Jeter said the district has "taken some extra precautions" to avoid problems. "We're optimistic," he said.

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