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Fresno Trustees Heading Back to School for Board Meetings

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Composite illustration of Fresno Unified Superintendent Bob Nelson and the board of trustees
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Fresno Unified trustees, who have been holding their public meetings electronically since the start of the coronavirus pandemic a year ago, will meet on April 7 at Roosevelt High School.

The meeting will be the first opportunity for community members to directly address board members in over a year. Public comment has been limited to email or voicemail submissions, of which only a handful are read during the meeting itself and the rest referred to as similar comments.

District spokeswoman Amy Idsvoog said the high school setting will provide more space for trustees to be distanced but also put them in closer contact with constituents after more than a year of online-only meetings.

Members of the Facebook group Parents for Re-Opening Fresno Unified are already planning a warm welcome for trustees at Roosevelt.

“We need to pack that gymnasium or cafeteria, or wherever the meeting is held!” the group’s administrator, Marcelino Valdez Jr., posted on the group’s page. “We talk about how upset we are about the schools being closed or the crumbs they offer us with this hybrid model, but will we get enough people there to show our strength in numbers? Let’s show the trustees we are not going to standby as they continue to allow the FTA to dictate to us the parents and the board when schools should fully reopen. We can’t let the tail wag the dog. Let’s remind them who they all work for and it isn’t the FTA.”

Valdez said Friday that if there isn’t enough room inside the venue, he is encouraging parents to greet the trustees on their way in and pass along the group’s message that schools need to be open full-time — five days a week.

When the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention revised its advice about distancing students, recommending 3 feet instead of 6, it opened the door for more students to return to classrooms, Valdez said. But Fresno Unified has not adjusted its reopening plan to account for the new recommendation, he said.

“We want schools to be open five days a week, and we want it immediately,” he said.

COVID-19 Restrictions Will Be in Place

Board President Valerie Davis said the agenda and location for the April 7 meeting was finalized Friday morning.

She said she’s looking forward to in-person board meetings again, although she acknowledged that some people might have concerns about COVID-19 risks. “I’ve had my two shots, and I’m happy,” she said.

The meeting will be held in the Roosevelt High cafeteria, which will be set up to keep trustees, staff, and the public properly distanced to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, Davis said.

Idsvoog said there will be limited public seating at Roosevelt that will be available on a first-come, first-served basis. The meetings will be recorded and made available on the district website the following day, she said.

“Unfortunately, they will not be broadcast live,” Idsvoog said. “While our boardroom is equipped for livestreaming to television, our school site facilities are not.”

A Facebook Live broadcast is not an option, she said: “With us hosting an in-person meeting, we won’t be livestreaming through Facebook.”

According to Trustee Terry Slatic, the first two in-person board meetings will be held at Roosevelt and McLane, with following meetings at the district’s other five high schools. The board typically meets twice monthly.

Nancy Price is a multimedia journalist for GV Wire. A longtime reporter and editor who has worked for newspapers in California, Florida, Alaska, Illinois and Kansas, Nancy joined GV Wire in July 2019. She previously worked as an assistant metro editor for 13 years at The Fresno Bee. Nancy earned her bachelor's and master's degrees in journalism at Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism. Her hobbies include singing with the Fresno Master Chorale and volunteering with Fresno Filmworks. You can reach Nancy at 559-492-4087 or Send an Email