READING - With the COVID-19 pandemic ushering in a drastic shift in the way government officials and citizens engage with one another in public, school officials will tonight consider whether to purchase new equipment to make remote meeting participation easier.

According to a copy of tonight’s meeting agenda, the School Committee will be presented a series of remote-and-hybrid meeting technology packages recently submitted to School Technology Director Julian Carr by DGI, a private telecommunications equipment company.

Tonight’s regularly scheduled School Committee meeting will begin at 7 p.m. in the RMHS library. Per the meeting agenda, the hybrid meeting technology discussion will begin at around 7:20 p.m.

Carr, who sought out the cost estimates at the School Committee’s request, explained in a recent five-page memo that the new equipment would make it easier for the elected officials to interact with members of the general public and other meeting guests who are attending sessions remotely - or through a video-conferencing link.

The pricing for the packages ranges between $6,500 to $31,500, with the more expensive options being considered the most user-friendly software and operating equipment.

“The following will outline three options in Basic functionality, Mid functionality, and Pro functionality designations, and cost. This information has been compiled from design sessions with DGI, a professional audio and visual services company, personal research, and conversations with other school districts and town technology directors in Massachusetts. All costs are estimated at this time,” Carr explained.

According to Wise, he expects that tonight’s initial conversation will jump-start a longer debate over what technology is necessary in order to improve the district’s hybrid meeting capabilities. As part of the conversation, School Finance Director Susan Bottan will unveil a list of potential funding sources for the technology purchase.

“Considering the cost for the ultimate functionality we may want was not inconsequential, I believe it is important for the full Committee to engage in the conversation,” wrote Wise in a message to the board earlier this week. “Your engagement in this discussion will be of great value as we right size the Hybrid implementation we desire to support community engagement while also continuing to enable RCTV live streaming and recording of our meetings.”

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