School board to add video component to live stream in February

The Kenai Peninsula Borough School District will be adding a video component to its meeting’s live stream with the Feb. 5 meeting as a tentative start date.

“We’re at the point technically where we feel like we’re ready to take the next steps,” said Information Services Director Eric Soderquist during a work session on Dec. 4. “The logical next step is to replace that audio-only stream with the Polycom stream, which would be both audio and, introducing, the video component.”

The district utilizes the Polycom system, which allows for video streaming in the Borough Assembly chambers where the school board holds its monthly meetings. This is a different system from Granicus, the service that the Kenai Peninsula Borough uses to video stream their meetings.

“One of the things that is different in this room between the borough’s system and the Polycom system is that the borough has (two cameras) that are drivable,” said Casey Olson, a programmer and analyst with the district. “So, we can move around to different presenters and see all the different people that might be speaking. These cameras are an HD quality camera, so the better quality we have on the captured image, the better quality we’ll have when we stream it.”

The Polycom system also leaves the option available for the school board to have remote participation as well, but according to Soderquist that’s a longer term goal.

The video stream will be delivered in the same way that the school board’s meetings are currently streamed, with a link on the district’s website. Soderquist will provide an information services employee to be on hand in case there are any technological issues.

“We will have a staff member here,” Soderquist said. “… Long term, I’m hoping to automate as much as we can, but I don’t foresee ever getting away from that.”

The staff member will be paid overtime, which Soderquist has been budgeting for since the school board first started talking about adding the video component.

“When you go to video streaming of these meetings, it’s really not a big deal,” said board member Dan Castimore, who also works as the information technology manager for the city of Kenai. “You’re going to show up, sit up there and the camera will be on and it’s not a big difference. It’s not that scary to do.”

Castimore also said he encourages the school board to move their work sessions up to the dais, so that work sessions can be recorded as well. The board first started discussing recording their work sessions earlier this summer, weighing the pros and cons to recording the less formal meetings. The work sessions are held before the monthly meeting, as necessary, and are open to the public but not currently broadcast or recorded. The current setup is more relaxed than a traditional meeting, with the board holding discussions at tables set up below the dais.

“The work sessions, the challenge from a technical perspective that we’re looking at is arranging the seating pattern,” Soderquist said. “Audio is the biggest challenge. We did some audio tests and … the audio was poor. In order to have good quality audio recordings for a live stream or recorded purposes … the easiest path of least resistance is to consider moving up to the dais for the work sessions.”

The board discussed making the move to the dais starting at its January meeting, and although no formal decision was made the move was supported.

“I’m very much in favor of moving our meetings up to the dais,” said school board member Zen Kelly. “I think it would help not only with the audio, but being able to hear. I have a hard time hearing … somebody at the end of the table or if we’re facing around and some people are facing the other way, it’s hard to hear in the work session. Even the ability to turn on your microphone for recognition to speak is nice.”

From a technical perspective, streaming and recording the work sessions is easy once the board is at the dais.

“All the pieces are in play at this point,” Soderquist said. “It’s just making sure they are microphoned and hooked up.”

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