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Governor’s New Executive Order Addresses the Open Meetings Act and In-Person Instruction

  • Date Posted
    June 29, 2020
  • Category
    COVID-19

On June 26, 2020, Governor JB Pritzker renewed the statewide disaster declaration for an additional 30 days and issued Executive Order 2020-44, both of which address in-person attendance at public meetings and in-person instruction in K-12 schools.

With regard to the Open Meetings Act, the Governor found that public health concerns render in-person attendance of more than 50 people at a public meeting not feasible. This finding triggers a public body’s ability to meet without the presence of a physical quorum under a recent amendment to the Open Meetings Act, provided other statutory conditions related to participation and public access are met. EO 2020-44 encourages, but does not require, that at least one member of a public body to be present at the meeting location. Under the recent OMA amendment, a school board member, superintendent, or the board attorney must physically attend the meeting at the regular meeting location when others are attending remotely, unless it is not feasible due to the disaster.

The EO also goes beyond the requirements of OMA by requiring public bodies to “update their websites and social media feeds” to keep the public aware of changes to meeting schedules or meeting format due to COVID-19, as well as their activities related to COVID-19.

Finally, the EO expressly provides that schools must follow Illinois Department of Public Health guidance (recently issued jointly with the Illinois State Board of Education) during Phase 4 of the Restore Illinois Plan (all regions of Illinois entered Phase 4 on June 26, 2020), including: (1) limiting the number of people in one space to 50 or fewer, (2) ensuring social distancing requirements of at least six feet to the greatest extent possible, (3) ensuring good hygiene practices, and (4) requiring the use of appropriate personal protective equipment, including the use of face coverings by all students, staff, and visitors who are over the age of two and able to medically tolerate a face covering. The order states that schools must provide face coverings to all employees who are unable to always maintain six feet of distance and to the extent possible, also provide them to all students.