WENATCHEE — The Wenatchee School Board will continue with remote meetings through October following the expressed preference of several school board members.
A conversation on returning to in-person meetings took place during the board’s meeting on Tuesday. The board did not take a vote on the matter. Four of the five school board members voiced their support for maintaining remote meetings during the discussion, with Julie Norton being the exception.
Norton voiced support for returning in some fashion, with the option of returning to completely remote meetings should a disruption occur.
In late August, a Wenatchee School Board meeting shifted online after a group of 30 maskless and vocal audience members disrupted the meeting. The board shifted to completely remote meetings in September following a “credible threat” made against a school board member.
“I do not discount the concerns and fears, so all I’m proposing and would be onboard for exploring is some type of hybrid meeting,” Norton said. “Online would remain an option as needed.”
Norton cited an increase in audience participation, and a more diverse audience, as part of the reason the board should return to in-person meetings.
Michele Sandberg, who was one of the targets of the September threat, said she was uncomfortable with returning to in-person meetings.
“I feel like that threat, even though we are not getting active daily threats, it still concerns me,” Sandberg said. “I’m uncomfortable with coming back to in-person meetings.”
Sandberg added that she was disappointed with a lack of empathy shown by Norton. Sandberg said she was also surprised that the item was added to the board’s agenda.
Maria Iñiguez, the other member targeted in the September threat, said the board should be unified. If one member feels unsafe, then the board should continue with meetings conducted through Zoom, she said.
Martin Barron expressed similar sentiments as Iñiguez and said that a threat against any board member should be considered a threat to all board members.
Laura Jaecks cited recommendations from several statewide groups, as well as the support from local law enforcement, as reasons the board should continue with remote meetings.
“Far be it from me to counteract what those experts are telling us,” Jaecks said.
The next regular meeting of the Wenatchee School Board will take place Oct. 26, and will be conducted virtually.