Update: Tier 3 Mitigation Measures May Impact In-Person Board Meetings

  • Date Posted
    November 23, 2020
  • Category
Update: On December 11, Governor JB ritzker has issued a new disaster proclamation and Executive Order, effective through January 9, 2021. Tier 3 mitigations are extended through January 9, and in-person meetings of more than 10 people are not feasible if a public body is meeting remotely without the presence of a quorum under OMA. The EO also continues to extend the OMA relief of prior orders. 

In response to the recent surge of COVID-19 cases in Illinois, Governor JB Pritzker issued Executive Order 2020-73, to implement more restrictive Tier 3 mitigations statewide. It became effective on November 20, 2020.

The intent of the new restrictions on businesses and other entities is to “institute strict public health measures that are known to slow the spread of COVID-19 in order to stop the exponential growth of the virus throughout the State.” The terms of the new EO do not impact local school district decisions about in-person learning in K-12 schools, with the exception of pausing youth sports.

The EO’s impact on in-person school board meetings is less clear, however. The order prohibits organizations, including “educational entities” (but excluding instructional activities at K-12 institutions) from hosting gatherings of any size in meeting spaces. However, the order also provides an exemption for state and local governments (including school districts); it states that the order “does not affect services provided by” state or local governments “and needed to ensure the continuing operation of the government agencies or to provide for or support the health, safety, and welfare of the public.”

Therefore, a board may locally determine with its counsel that it meets the terms of this exemption and continue to hold in-person meetings while taking necessary safety precautions.

It is clear however, that the state, and likely many county health departments, wants school boards to meet virtually at this time. An FAQ on the Tier 3 mitigations released by the Illinois Department of Commerce specifically encourages school boards to hold public meetings remotely.

Districts should consult their board attorneys and/or local health authorities for further guidance. For information about the feasibility of in-person attendance at regular meeting locations during virtual board meetings, see our earlier article here.