Technology to allow remote participation | News, Sports, Jobs – Marshalltown Times Republican

TR Photo by Trevor Babcock
Director of Technology Amy Harmsen asks members of the Marshalltown School Board to approve the purchase of new technology to be installed in the board room allowing the capability for remote participants at board meetings.

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New technology will be installed to upgrade Marshalltown Community School District’s board room allowing for remote participation at meetings and more.

The Marshalltown Community School Board voted unanimously Monday night to approve a $38,517.54 purchase of new audio and visual equipment to be installed in the board room as soon as possible.

Director of Technology Amy Harmsen said technological capabilities in the school board room make communicating with remote participants difficult, while other board members noted complications of including remote participants.

One of the goals of the new equipment Harmsen said, would be to make board meetings more open to the public and to increase community engagement.

“We believe not only with the COVID situation that this room should be upgraded to include some new audio and visual equipment, but also just to make these meetings more accessible in general,” Harmsen said. “For people who maybe can’t be here in person but would like to be, or if they would add something to present.”

Superintendent Theron Schutte said the COVID-19 pandemic has revealed shortcomings around the capability for outside participation in meetings, and approving

“It’s always, I think, a goal to be as transparent as we can as a district and board,” Schutte said.

The new equipment includes a new digital signal processor adding capabilities for voice lift, presentation audio, conferencing and echo cancellation. Three new cameras will be installed with two facing the board tables and one facing the guest table. The guest table will have added USB capability for connection to a designated ZOOM laptop for remote participants. Video and audio will be controllable through a 10-inch touch panel located at the press table. A new video streaming device will record meetings and live stream to YouTube and Facebook

“We can’t predict the future. We don’t know what the future is going to look like, so the more versatile we can be the better off we will be,” board member Janis McGinnis said.

Harmsen said the new capabilities could open up more uses for the room including the potential for students to utilize the technology. Students have already taken part in operating the camera and running the live stream for board meetings, but the new technology she said would give students a chance to work with more up to date equipment and have a higher production value.

In other business:

The school board voted unanimously to approve the budget for the 2021-22 school year. The property tax rate as part of the budget is an estimated $18.13 per $1,000 in taxable valuation. The rate is a decrease of $0.20 from the current budget, which has an $18.33 property tax rate per $1,000 in taxable valuation.

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Contact Trevor Babcock at 641-753-6611 or tbabcock@timesrepublican.com.

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