The only Denver metro school district not already livestreaming board meetings plans to start in April

Members of the public wait to give public comment about the district’s equity programs at a November Cherry Creek School District board meeting. Those opposed and those supportive of the policy sat on different sides of the room. The district doesn’t livestream its meetings or allow remote testimony because it says it hosts meetings at a different school every month.

Cherry Creek School District will now livestream its board meetings after being the only major school district in Colorado to not do so.

Director Anne Egan announced at a board meeting Monday the board will begin streaming a portion of their regular meetings in April.

“During my recent campaign for reelection and during our meetings from the past year, we heard the desire to livestream,” said Egan. She offered no further reasons for the change.

All major school districts in metro Denver livestream board meetings. Cherry Creek stood alone in only hosting meetings in person at various schools across the district. It argued that the method gave residents more access to meetings.

“We choose to go out into the community to meet families where they are,” board member Kelly Bates said at a meeting in 2022. “This gives every family the opportunity to attend the meeting at a school that is close in proximity.”

But others said rotating in-person meetings prevented them from regularly attending meetings either because of responsibilities at home, transportation barriers or not wanting to feel intimidated at board meetings during controversial debates.

Typically, the district posted an audio recording of the meeting a day or more after the event. For many years, though it recorded meetings as required by law, they weren’t posted.

One parent and community member said she is thrilled by the decision to livestream

Maureen Welch, an advocate for parents of children with disabilities, regularly asked the board to livestream as a matter to expand access to people who cannot attend the meetings in person.

“I wished they had done nearly 18 months ago when I raised it as an equity of access issue in numerous public comments as well as emails to (board directors),” she said.

When the board didn’t respond to what Welch saw as “an injustice,” she approached lawmakers to run legislation to require access. Colorado lawmakers will hear a bill later this month that would require local governments to livestream video or audio that is recorded and is accessible to individuals with disabilities.

District officials said further details of their new livestreaming policy will be released in April. It’s unclear whether people would be able to testify during public comment periods remotely.

The legislative proposal requires public bodies to allow people to offer public testimony by using a video conferencing platform like Zoom unless broadband access.