COVID-19 FAQ

SCHOOL BOARD AND BOND ELECTIONS

Q: Will the April 7, 2020, school board election still be held?  (3/18)

No. If your school district has a school board race scheduled for Tuesday, April 7, 2020, the Secretary of the state Election Board is authorizing the rescheduling of these elections to Tuesday, June 30, 2020. Your district must call a meeting to reschedule your April 7 election because the state Election Board has indicated it is unlikely to have enough poll workers to stage a valid election.

To reschedule school board candidate elections, the board of education must call a meeting and:

• Adopt a modified resolution utilizing the document that called the Tuesday, April 7 election. 

• Submit the modified resolution to your county election board secretary by Monday, March 30, 2020.   

Here is sample agenda language:

Discussion and possible board action to modify resolution calling for 2020 school board member election.

Also, since federal, state, and county primaries will occur, the state Election Board and the county pay all costs of Precinct Official compensation.  All districts will pay for on June 30 elections is ballots and any other costs incurred specifically by each district.  They also will receive a post-election statement of their costs after the June election, just as they do for all elections.

A rescheduled election involving a school board race shall remain exactly the same as candidates appeared on the ballot for the April 7, 2020, election.  

Q: Will the April 7, 2020, school bond elections still be held? (3/18)

No. If your school district has a school bond issue scheduled for Tuesday, April 7, 2020, the Secretary of the state Election Board is authorizing the rescheduling of these elections to Tuesday, June 30, 2020, Aug. 25 or Nov. 3.  Your district must reschedule your April 7 bond election because the state Election Board has indicated it is unlikely to have enough poll workers to stage a valid election.   

If you called a special election for a school bond project, the board of education must hold a board meeting and adopt a modified resolution utilizing the document that called the Tuesday, April 7 election. The board will need to: 

• Contact your financial advisor.

• Review the modified resolution prepared by your district’s financial advisors, which must include language to rescind the Tuesday April 7 election; and 

• Vote at a meeting to reschedule that election to any election date allowed by 26 O.S. Section 3-101.   

• Submit the modified resolution to your county election board secretary by Monday, March 30, 2020.   

Here is sample agenda language:

Discussion and possible board action to modify resolution calling for 2020 school bond issue election.

Also, since federal, state, and county primaries will occur, the state Election Board and the county pay all costs of Precinct Official compensation. All districts will pay for on June 30 elections is ballots and any other costs incurred specifically by each district.  They also will receive a post-election statement of their costs after the June election, just as they do for all elections.

A rescheduled election involving a bond issue shall remain exactly the same as the question that was to appear on the ballot for the April 7, 2020, election. 


OPEN MEETINGS

Download our FAQ here.

Q: Can we conduct our upcoming regular meeting via teleconference or videoconference?  

No. Regular meetings cannot be conducted via teleconference or videoconference as the meeting notice filed by the Dec. 15 deadline for regular meetings did not include the listing of who would be present via teleconference or videoconference.  Even more important, this law was not in existence at that time.

If you plan to meet via teleconference or videoconference, please adopt the following policies during the first such meeting and make them effective retroactively:

Q:  How do we call a meeting that includes teleconferencing or videoconferencing board members?

  • Provide a special meeting notice to the county clerk’s office that includes:
  • Time, date, place (if a physical meeting will occur) of the meeting
  • Listing of who will be attending via teleconference
  • Listing of who will be attending via videoconference
  • Listing of who will be physically present at the meeting site.

This new law change was effective March 18 and will remain in effect until November 15, 2020, or until the Governor of Oklahoma terminates the state of emergency, whichever date first occurs.

Q:  What would a meeting notice look like?  

For a completely virtual meeting, a meeting notice to be filed and court stamped with the county clerk would appear as follows (CLICK HERE FOR A TEMPLATE FOR THIS OPTION):
The ____ Board of Education will be conducting a special meeting on the ___ day of _____, 2020, at ____a.m./p.m.

This meeting will be conducted entirely via teleconferencing and videoconferencing.  Those present at remote locations will be:

Via Teleconference:  (List names and position)

Via Videoconference:  (List names and position)

For a meeting that will have both a physical and a virtual presence, the meeting notice that is filed and court stamped with the county clerk would appear as follows (CLICK HERE FOR A TEMPLATE FOR THIS OPTION):
The ____ Board of Education will be conducting a special meeting on the ___ day of _____, 2020, at ____a.m./p.m.

This meeting will include teleconferencing and videoconferencing, but there will be parties present at (physical location if some will be at school address or in same location).

Those present at remote locations will be:

  • Via Teleconference:  (List names and position)
  • Via Videoconference:  (List names and position)
  • Those present at the physical meeting site will be:  (include names and positions).

Q:  Can a board member change their mind about being physically present, videoconferencing or teleconferencing in for a board meeting?  

A board member who was scheduled to attend a meeting via videoconferencing or teleconferencing can change their mind and attend physically.  However, a board member who was included in the notice to the county clerk as being present physically cannot legally decide to attend via teleconference or videoconference.

Q:  Are we required to have a physical meeting site?  

No.  The entire meeting can be conducted without a physical meeting site.

Q:  Does the district need to post an agenda? 

Yes, the district must post an agenda on the school district’s website. The agenda must comply with the requirements of the Oklahoma Open Meeting Act. However, the district is not required to make the notice to the public available in the central office of the school district nor at the location of the meeting during normal business hours at least 24 hours prior to the meeting.

The agenda will also need to identify who will be present via videoconference, teleconference, or physically present at the meeting site, if one exists.

Q:  Can the board of education conduct an executive session? 

The board may convene into executive session by teleconference or videoconference for one of the reasons listed in statute for executive session.

  • That listing of topics has not changed and must be worded appropriately on the posted agenda.
  • The agenda must include language that provides that the executive session will include teleconferencing or
  • The agenda must state the identity:
  • Each member appearing remotely
  • The method of each member’s remote appearance
  • The identity of any member that will be physically present at the meeting site, if any, for the executive session.

Q:  Does the minutes clerk need to participate in the meeting? 

Yes, the minutes clerk will need to keep the official minutes of the meeting and must record all votes taken via roll call vote. The minutes clerk will not participate in any executive sessions so standard executive session minutes procedures should be followed.

Q:  How should we document the meeting?

YES. A record of the meeting must be maintained. The district may record meetings via written, electronic, or other means.

Q: If we have a meeting via teleconference or videoconference, do we need to allow public comments?

If a board’s policy allows public participation at a special meeting, it needs to find a method that would allow participation in some form. This could include submitting written comments via a form or to a specific email address. Please see our updated sample policy here.

Q: What should a board do if the teleconference or videoconference cuts out?

If the teleconference or videoconference feed cuts out while the meeting is being conducted, the meeting must immediately cease until the connection is re-established.

Q: Must documents utilized during a teleconference or videoconference be made available to the public?

Yes. Any documents provided to the board must also be made immediately available to members of the public. This can be accomplished by posting the documents on your district website (or to the public page in Assemble) prior to the start of the meeting. Documents which are provided to your board as part of executive session should not be made available to the public as those documents remain confidential.


SCHOOL OPERATIONS

Q: When will school reopen? (3/17)

The closure is mandated until April 6, 2020. Prior to April 6, state officials are expected to assess the situation to determine if a longer closure is necessary.

Q: Will these days need to be made up?  (3/17)

State schools Superintendent Joy Hofmeister is expected to take this issue to the state Board of Education on March 25. The board has the authority to waive instructional time requirements for days missed during the mandatory shut down, and we anticipate they will do so.

Q: What does the closure include? (3/17)

The state board required schools to cease all instructional activities, including extracurricular activities. Here is the action approved by the state board:

Order for all accredited public schools to cease operations, effective March 17 until April 6. Cessation of operations to include all instructional services, grading and extracurricular activities, staff development, trainings or conferences, but essential clerical and administrative activities such as business management, nutrition services, maintenance may continue.


EMPLOYEE ISSUES

Q: What is the status of the federal legislation that makes changes to the Family Medical Leave Act and affects paid sick leave?

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act has been signed by the President and goes into effect April 2. Please click here to read about changes to the Family Medical Leave Act and additions to paid sick leave.

Q: Support employees are concerned about their pay. What assurance can my district offer?  (3/20)

Support employees across the state have expressed worry online about the possibility of lost pay. Please reassure them that OSSBA is working with legislative leaders to try to provide salary and wage protection for them. Until then, there are ways districts can help shield them. School districts may require essential employees – such as custodians, food service workers and business staff – to report to work during the school closure. Also, if your district’s payroll for 10-month employees is annualized, districts can continue to pay support employees during a short-term closure for the compensation they have already accrued but have not yet received. Other possible options are: 

• For districts that negotiate with a support employee bargaining unit, your district can negotiate a one-time Memorandum of Understanding (“MOU”) providing additional leave (e.g, sick, emergency or special business) specifically for the COVID-19 school closures. The MOU can specify a defined time period for the availability of this leave.  Although an MOU requires board approval it may be applied retroactively, if necessary.  See here for a template MOU.

• If your district does not negotiate with a support employee union, you may call a special board meeting and propose a revised leave policy that provides additional leave (e.g., sick, emergency or personal business) for support employees, specifically for the COVID-19 school closures. Your district may designate a specific time period for the availability of this leave.  Although a policy change requires board approval, it may be applied retroactively, if necessary. We have sample policies here.

Q: Will teachers and other certified employees still receive their salary and wages during the school closure? (3/17)

Yes. Oklahoma law contains a provision regarding pay for administrators and teachers applicable during an epidemic. Click here to view the statute. Here is the applicable language, which can be found in section H:

Teachers and administrators shall be entitled to pay for any time lost when school is closed on account of epidemics or otherwise when an order for such closing has been issued by a health officer authorized by law to issue the order.

The OSSBA legal team is in agreement with the state Education Department and other education attorneys that this language applies to the current situation. Districts can rely on this statute to pay certified employees for any contract days lost because of the COVID-19 emergency. Don’t require teachers and other certified employees to report to work unless they are needed to perform essential duties.

Q: What constitutes a “teacher” under the provision which allows for payments during times of an epidemic? (3/17)

The OSSBA legal team interprets “teachers and administrators” as used within that specific statute broadly. This would include all certified employees including any person who is employed to serve as district superintendent, principal, supervisor, a counselor, librarian, school nurse or classroom teacher or in any other instructional, supervisory or administrative capacity. This would apply regardless of the source of funding for the position and would include, but would not be limited to, teachers paid with federal funds.

Q: What employees will be needed to perform essential duties? (3/17)

This is a local control decision. It may be necessary to keep central offices open to continue business operations. The district will need to monitor the mail, process payroll, fulfill open records requests, answer questions from employees, parents, students and other patrons. School offices may need to be staffed to be responsive to community questions so that parents can pick up their children’s medication at home during the closure. Other roles may include:

• Custodial staff to clean the buildings;

• Cafeteria workers to prepare meals for students;

• Bus drivers to deliver food directly to families in order to have the least amount of physical contact between employees and families;

• Maintenance and grounds personnel to care for campuses; and

• Teachers or other employees on a case-by-case basis as determined by the administration.

Q: What if a teacher or other employee has a health concern about reporting to work? (3/17)

Some employees may be particularly susceptible to COVID-19, such as those with underlying health conditions, or may be in close contact with a high-risk relative. These issues should be dealt with on a case-by-case basis, but districts are encouraged to be flexible with use of sick and other available leave. Also, some of these cases may include issues covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). School districts are encouraged to contact their retained counsel for advice on specific issues that may be covered by the ADA.

Q: Must an employee growth/improvement plan be extended for a certified teacher if the school closure interferes with the amount of time given to comply with the plan? (3/17)

Yes. If an employee has been placed on a plan for improvement and given a certain time to correct their behavior, they must be given the amount of time stated in the plan for improvement. A school closure would not automatically reduce the amount of time provided in the plan for improvement.

Q: Will teachers be granted a year of retirement credit for the 2019-2020 school year if the school year ends early? (3/17)

We are working with the Teacher Retirement System to find a solution that would allow teachers to be granted a full year of service credit for the current school year, even if schools remain closed.


STUDENT ISSUES

Q: Will students participate in concurrent enrollment during the school closure?  (3/17)

Your district should communicate with your higher education partner about plans for providing instruction to concurrently enrolled students until April 6, and perhaps longer. Some universities and colleges have already announced they will implement online learning within the next few weeks, while others are still waiting to make a decision about coursework. Once you receive information from the college or university serving your students, share it with concurrently enrolled students and their parents.

Q: What guidance is being provided by the Office for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Education? (3/17)

OCR released a webinar today on ensuring web accessibility for students with disabilities for schools using online learning during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. More information, including links to the webinar and a fact sheet are available by clicking here.

Q: How does the school closure affect students on individualized education plans? (3/18)

A: While school is closed for all students, there is no requirement to provide an education to any student, including students on individualized education plans. 

Q: What will happen with state testing?

State-mandated standardized testing will not happen this year. Oklahoma received a waiver from the U.S. Department of Education  See the news release here. (3/21)


CHILD NUTRITION

Q: Is it a local control decision on how to provide meals to students during the closure? (3/17)

• Distribution method: Schools may determine the best method by which to distribute the meals, however, methods that require as little person-to-person contact as possible are encouraged (e.g., drive-through method).

• Financing: At this time, only districts that participate in the summer feeding program may provide this service. For these schools, the meals will be provided free of charge for anyone 0-18 years of age.


GOVERNANCE

Q:  What authority can the board delegate to the superintendent?  (3/18)
 
The board most likely has already delegated day-to-day decisions to the superintendent via the powers and duties of superintendents (OSSBA policy BJ).  The only decisions that cannot be delegated to the superintendent are those that are specifically required via law to be done by the board of education. You board can use this resolution to reinforce granting the superintendent emergency powers.

Q:  What about policy changes during the closure? (3/18)

The administration may modify policy, subject to formal approval of the board at a future meeting.  These changes are often referred to as retroactive policy changes.   

Q: Will board meetings be affected by the school closures and/or health emergency? (3/17)

Maybe. Lawmakers have passed legislation that would temporarily ease open meeting requirements. If signed by the governor, it would allow more flexibility for board members to participate in a meeting via teleconference or videoconference. (OSSBA has an online, paperless meeting service that can help school districts and other public bodies streamline meetings, reduce paper, reduce person-to-person contact and enable boards to take full advantage of the proposed flexibility. Click here to learn more about Assemble Meetings.).

Q: My district has a board member who ran unopposed for a seat but has not yet been sworn in. What happens now? (3/18)

 The new (or returning) board member won’t be seated until the June 30 election results have been certified. This means the board member currently holding that seat will continue to serve.  


MISCELLANEOUS

Q: What if an employee or student tests positive for COVID-19? (3/18)

If a positive case is confirmed in your district, please report it immediately to county health officials and follow their medical advice. Remember, communication and up-to-date information is an important tool for helping others in your school community to protect themselves. Due to student and employee privacy issues, communicating about a positive case can be a difficult situation to navigate. Please call OSSBA for guidance if this situation occurs. We are available to assist you. We also have a draft communication template here. We also have a draft communication to share about an employee or student exposure to COVID-19.

Q: What information should I provide to my community?  (3/17) 

Timely and effective communication with parents, students, employees and community members is critically important, especially during times of uncertainty. Let all stakeholders know your schools will be not be offering instructional or extracurricular services until April 6, and share with them your plans to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19. Additionally, let parents know the services that will available to them during the school closure, such as child nutrition options or opportunities to pick up school medication. Consider creating a COVID-19 resources page on your website where they can get the latest information from your district, along with sending announcements via text, phone call, social media and/or email.

Click here to return to the main OSSBA Coronavirus Resources page.