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OMA Guidance to IASB Members

  • Date Posted
    May 5, 2020
  • Category
    COVID-19
Update: On April 30, in Section 6 of Executive Order 2020-33, the Governor extended the suspension of the OMA in-person meeting requirement through May 29, 2020, to align with the extension of the stay-at-home order. 

During this unprecedented national health emergency, school districts face myriad issues and uncharted waters in terms of dealing with school governance and operations. 

On March 16, Governor Pritzker issued Executive Order 2020-07 that included suspending the in-person attendance requirement by members of a public body, including boards of education.

On March 18, the state Attorney General’s office published a Guidance to Public Bodies on the Open Meetings Act and the Freedom of Information Act during the COVID-19 Pandemic, which includes items relevant to the previously published recommendations below..

Boards of education may want to consider the following issues relative to OMA and board meetings:
  • The declaration of a national health emergency may fulfill the requirement for a board to convene emergency meetings and to waive the 48-hour posting requirements. 
    • However, a bona fide emergency requires notice and an agenda to be posted as soon as possible and publicly available prior to the meeting. 
    • Note that any news media that have filed written requests must also be notified as soon as possible. 
    • Boards may also want to consider notifying their members of emergency meetings as soon as possible, similar to the process the School Code requires for special meetings: Written notification to every board member (or personal service, but that is likely not practical given the current pandemic).
    • Follow the board’s adopted policies (PRESS and PRESS Plus subscribers can get access to PRESS Online sample policies 2:200, Types of School Board Meetings and 2:220, School Board Meeting Procedure.) 
  • Consider compressing meeting agendas to a minimum of required action items.
  • Locate meetings in a larger venue that allows for greater social distancing of board members and attendees. If visitors are permitted, arrange seating to space out any attendees. 
  • Use social distance recommended spacing with your board members while in meetings; consider having a quorum physically present while others participate remotely.
  • Consider working with the board attorney to develop alternative means, such as teleconference or videoconference, for the participation and comments by visitors. 
  • Require only essential staff to attend meetings.
March is an important month for school boards. Many personnel decisions are made. Consult with your legal counsel if you plan to deviate at all from current procedures. The legal posting and quorum requirements are of particular importance if the board takes action on significant personnel issues.
 
It is worth noting that the ISBE board is meeting this month and will have board members physically present at two different locations and is modifying the procedures for recognition of visitors. 
 
It is also important for boards to remember the exceptions to the majority rule for taking action apply regardless of how many members are present at the meeting. 
 
A majority of the entire board (4 out of 7) is required to:
  • Dismiss a teacher
  • Petition for an emergency election
  • Lay off an employee due to a RIF
  • Adopt a supplemental budget after a successful referendum
Two-thirds of the board (5 out of 7) is required to:
  • Sell land or buildings
  • Enter most leases, or lease-purchase or installment contracts
  • Exchange building sites
  • Request waiver of administrative cost cap
Three-fourths of the entire board (6 out of 7) is required to award an emergency contract or expenditure without soliciting bids.
 
IASB will continue to support you during this difficult time. IASB will also continue to press for modifications to the OMA during the COVID-19 coronavirus emergency. Thank you for your dedicated service to our students during this difficult time.