Do you have a “Zoom room” at home? Or something like that?
Zoom meetings became famous, and in some cases infamous, during the height of the coronavirus pandemic. Employees used it to work remotely. Schools have used video conferencing as virtual classrooms.
But a desire to return to “normal” has several public agencies wondering if it’s time to end live streaming of their events.
Schools in southern Lyon County voted this week to curb Zoom webcasts. The school board voted 4 to 2 to end conferences from monthly meetings.
North Lyon County Schools used Facebook Live for monthly board meetings, but there was no webcast this month or last. Superintendent Robert Blair said there won’t be any in August either.
“I think we’ll discuss it in August,” Blair said last week. “The board will let me know what they want to do.”
In the past, cable television systems had government access channels where people could watch meetings. The meetings of the municipal commission of Emporia were thus broadcast on the old Cable One.
But as cable customers have “cut the cord” in recent years, they may be looking for other ways to follow local authorities.
Lyon County leaders give several reasons why their live streams are evaporating.
Argabright told the $252 board that he feared the Zoom format would create “unintended liabilities.”
“Sometimes what’s being reported isn’t the actual context,” Argabright explained Thursday. “The context is what the discussion was about. I think when you are in person you understand the context of the information being discussed.
In the Nord department of Lyon, the summer suspension of streaming is explained as a question of summer savings for technical staff.
“We don’t give them that many hours,” Blair said.
The Sud de Lyon department saved money by using Zoom for free. But Zoom is changing the time limit for those meetings from 70 to 40 minutes. For a school board meeting, that’s just not enough time.
“We don’t have a subscription,” board clerk Dedra Stutesman said, watching an on-screen Zoom clock count down Monday night.
A one-year subscription to the Zoom business plan starts at $499. Regular webinars cost $690 per year.
Another problem with Zoom can be the presentation quality. The single video camera from Monday night’s $252 board meeting repeatedly became blurry and blurry, and the audio of the discussion was often difficult to understand.
Madison City Council meetings are still using Zoom. The same goes for the Madison-Virgil school board. CareArc will use it for its next board meeting on Tuesday.
But other free online options remain. City of Emporia Communications Manager Christine Johnson said this week that the city uses Facebook Live for free. Google Meetings is also free to the public.
The Lyon tribunal de grande instance developed its own live streaming system as the pandemic developed. But it has been deleted in recent months.
“We only use it if we expect a lot of spectators,” said court administrator Ruth Wheeler, explaining that it would be a six-foot COVID-19 precaution.
For example, several hearings of suspects in the Jesus Avila murder case were broadcast live from the court. But last week’s conviction of Armando Nunez was not.
The Chase County Commission has its own YouTube channel for live broadcasts of meetings. People can watch the replays at their leisure.
Emporia City Government uses Facebook Live in the same way. But Johnson said that will change as the city redesigns and updates its website.
“The city is moving to a new live streaming platform,” Johnson said via email. “This new platform will create a personalized experience for viewers and will be ADA certified. [Americans With Disabilities Act] compliance.”
Johnson added that she had no estimate of when the redesigned website would be ready.
The Lyon Departmental Commission also used Facebook Live. But his meeting webcasts came to an abrupt end last July after what was called an “equipment malfunction” late in a meeting.
Some rural school districts now seem set to follow the county’s lead and pull the virtual plug out of its meetings.
“You are always welcome to come in person,” Blair said.