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School board introduces new participation format

The Abbeville County School District Board of Trustees has adopted a new format with regard to its regular monthly board meetings.

The board had begun live-streaming its meetings earlier this year in response to the coronavirus pandemic, with the board room open only to the board of trustees and essential staff.

While the meetings will continue to be live-streamed, the board recently decided to allow into the meetings ten "public attendees" on a first come, first served basis.

Public input will be allowed during a public comment section of the meeting, under certain guidelines provided by the School District.

The input is limited to five speakers at three minute intervals, in accordance with Board Policy BEDH.

The guidelines call for the speaker to remain in the hallway until their respective turn, speak for three minutes, and exit the building unless they are among the 10 attendees allowed in the boardroom.

Guidelines also call for participants to sign a waiver and complete a sign-up sheet provided at the door to be forwarded to the board secretary no later than 10 minutes prior to the official meeting start time.

The doors will open for the public no earlier than one hour before the meeting's official start time.

The community will still be able to access the board meetings via live-stream.

The board approved the opening up of the meetings to ten public attendees despite the dissenting vote of school board chairman James Tisdale, Jr., who wanted to keep the format adopted at the beginning of the pandemic -- namely, keeping the board room open only to the board of trustees and essential staff during meetings, and allowing the public access through live-streaming.

Tisdale was concerned about the spread of the coronavirus, and he reasoned that with more people in the room, there would be more of an opportunity for it to spread.

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