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Riverhead BOE considers change to way public asks questions at meetings

The days of approaching a podium and using a microphone to address the Riverhead Board of Education may soon come to an end.

A new policy being considered by the board would require members of the public seeking to ask questions or comment on agenda items to submit them in writing to the district clerk at the start of the meeting.

The clerk would then read the comment or question aloud for the board, according to a first reading of the policy accepted unanimously Tuesday night. Board ember Brian Connelly was absent.

The public would be able to address the board president during the second public comment period of the meeting, which permits questions and remarks on non-agenda items.

A second reading of the proposed policy amendment is required before the board can adopt it.

Board member Chris Dorr said the new policy will help ensure social distancing at meetings when they are held in person again. 

“It would keep people from coming up to the podium in a big line,” he said. “If they submit their question ahead of time, we can call them to the podium.”

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the BOE meetings have been conducted virtually since March. To allow for public comment during virtual meetings, the board has accepted a mix of questions submitted via email in advance and live comments via Zoom.

Tuesday’s meeting was originally scheduled to take place in person at the high school, but switched back to virtual after an executive order by Gov. Andrew Cuomo regarding open meetings was extended. It’s unclear when in-person meetings will resume. The next scheduled meeting is Sept. 22.