The Elizabethtown Area School District checked with the Pennsylvania School Boards Association to make sure it was following open-meeting laws when the entire school board toured the lower level of the middle school, a school district spokesman said.
Spokesman Troy Portser told the Advocate on Tuesday, Sept. 17, that board members did not deliberate during the hour-long tour of the lower level of the school, which was led by architect Grace Heiland of Crabtree, Rohrbaugh & Associates.
“It was more or less a show-and-tell type of walking tour,” Portser said.
When asked if board members asked questions during the tour, Portser said, “There really wasn’t a lot of conversation; we were on a timeline.” He said, however, that there was a question about whether a wall could be knocked down between the middle school’s two gymnasiums to make one large gym; that cannot be done because it is the original wall
that was there before a second gym was built around the first one.
“The conversation was minimal,” Portser said, noting that the board had only an hour to go through the entire lower level.
In response to a question from the Advocate, he said no video recording was made of the tour; he noted that there is no requirement to make such a recording.
Melissa Melewsky, a lawyer for the Pennsylvania NewsMedia Association, said the Pennsylvania Sunshine Act does not specifically allow this sort of tour. But Melewsky wrote in an email message to the Advocate asking about the legality of the tour that a court ruling found “a series of private meetings was ‘information gathering’ and not deliberation, thus not a violation of the law.”
“The problem with that line of reasoning is that when the public is excluded, there’s no way for the public to determine if deliberation took place,” Melewsky wrote. She went on to say that such acts can create the appearance of impropriety even if there genuinely was no deliberation.