A new disaster proclamation will result in more virtual board of education meetings. In accordance with recent revisions to the Open Meetings Act in P.A. 101-640, during periods in which a public health disaster declaration is in effect, boards of education may hold meetings virtually when a physical quorum is not practical or prudent and may restrict or prohibit physical attendance of the public when unrestricted attendance is not “feasible.”

In recent weeks, with Tier 1 and Tier 2 Mitigation Orders affecting areas throughout the State and limiting “meetings and social events” to 25 attendees (or 25% capacity) and 10 attendees, respectively, many county health departments were urging boards of education to limit in-person attendance at board meetings. Now, Governor Pritzker’s November 13 disaster declaration provides that, for purposes of the OMA virtual-meeting provision, public health concerns currently render in-person attendance of more than 10 people at the regular meeting location not feasible. This standard effectively will result in most board meetings being held virtually or with significant modifications to in-person attendance limits and meeting protocols.

As a reminder, if a board of education holds a meeting without a physical quorum or limits or prohibits in-person attendance, it must follow the protocols set forth in the recent revisions to OMA as summarized in our prior article here. In addition, the Governor’s Executive Order 2020-71, also issued on November 13, extends prior Executive Orders stating that public bodies must take steps to provide video, audio, and/or telephonic access to meetings to ensure members of the public may monitor the meeting, and to update their websites and social media feeds to keep the public fully apprised of any modifications to their meeting schedules or the format of their meetings due to COVID-19, as well their activities relating to COVID-19. Districts are advised to consult with their legal counsel regarding these OMA compliance issues.