More than two years after the pandemic shut down in-person schools and school board meetings, the Baltimore City school board will begin meeting at its North Avenue headquarters on Nov. 9, but only five seats will be available for members of the general public.

“We are grateful to the staff for thoughtful planning to create more opportunities for the public to participate in our meetings. We are looking forward to this transition”, said board Chair Johnette Richardson in a statement.

Baltimore City’s school board is the last board in the region to go back to in-person meetings. Anne Arundel’s board began meeting again in person in February 2021 and Carroll County was in person as far back as 2020.

Schools in Maryland began a limited reopening in the fall of 2020 and by early 2021 most schools had reopened for those who wanted to attend in person.

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In its statement, the city school board said the “public gallery will have 20 seats, with 15 seats reserved for recognized groups and public comment in-person sign-ups. Any seats not used by in-person speakers will be available to all on a first-come, first-served basis.”

Richardson declined to be interviewed. School officials did not explain why seats for the public will be limited, unlike other school boards. In Anne Arundel, Baltimore and Howard counties, the number of people allowed into the meeting room is only restricted by the number of seats. In Baltimore County, the public must sign up for a seat ahead of time.

“The Baltimore City Board of School Commissioners is committed to serving our students, families, staff, and community in a safe and healthy environment. We understand the importance of interacting with the community without barriers. To support these relationships, the Board will transition to a hybrid approach for meetings,” the statement said.

The public may still watch the school board meetings online.