Please note: Jim Martin, Martin Law Firm has provided the following information for education and informational purposes only and not to be construed as legal advice. Consult with your legal counsel or reach out to Jim Martin for further clarification. Jim may be reached at jmartinlawfirm@gmail.com or 612-581-8450

As Charter School Leadership and Boards face difficult decisions during the Coronavirus pandemic, we need to continue to employ strong governance and be conscious of the parameters of Open Meeting Law. As many schools are closing temporarily, board engagement and oversight is vitally important.

SOME QUESTIONS BOARDS SHOULD CONSIDER

  • How should the board be kept informed?
  • Who is responsible for our overall messaging direction and actions?
  • How are we communicating with students and families?
  • How are we ensuring compliance with FERPA and the MN Data Practices Act?
  • Do we have strong emergency contingency plans in place for the Board Chair and Director should someone become sick?
  • What are our priority goals between now and the end of the school year?

Thankfully, we do have technology to support oversight without exposing the board and school leadership to health risk. However, be sure you are managing this process in compliance with Open Meeting Law.

Communication from Minnesota Department of Administration – Data Practices Office:

Public bodies required to comply with the Open Meeting Law must still do so during a state of an emergency. However, the Minnesota legislature has considered the challenges of such public meetings, and we want to highlight Minnesota Statutes, section 13D.021. Section 13D.021, subdivision 1 permits public bodies to hold meetings via telephone or other electronic means if the conditions of this section are met.

Section 13D.021 requires a public body to make a determination that an in-person meeting is “not practical or prudent because of a health pandemic or an emergency declared under chapter 12.”  Governor Walz has declared an emergency under Ch. 12.

Requirements for holding a meeting via telephone or other electronic means include:

  1. There must be a determination made by the board chair, school leader or school legal counsel that due to the declared pandemic and/or the Chapter 12 emergency declared by Governor Walz, an in-person meeting of the board is not practical or prudent. Attach the declaration and post along with a notice that the board meeting scheduled for whatever date will be held by telephone or other electronic means.
  2. Technically, the Notice of the change to a telephonic meeting is required to be posted at least three (3) days in advance of the change in meeting status.
  3. Members of the public present at the regular meeting location of the board can hear all discussion and testimony and all votes of the members of the board, unless attendance at the regular meeting location is not feasible due to the health pandemic or emergency declaration.
  4. At least one member of the board or the board’s legal counsel of the chief administrative officer must physically present at the regular meeting location, unless unfeasible due to the health pandemic or emergency declaration.
  5. All votes must be conducted by roll call, so each member’s vote on each issue can be identified and recorded.
  6. Steps should be taken to allow members of the public who wish to monitor the meeting from a remote location be able to do so. If the public’s access to monitor the meeting from a remote location results in a documented additional cost to the school, payment may be required. However, if the cost of access to the public is nominal, we recommend that the board consider waiving the cost.
  7. Recommend that in addition to having a copy of the board packet available for review in the board room during the meeting that the board packet be made available on the school’s website so that members of the public who choose to monitor the meeting remotely can have access to the packet.

For further clarification, please consult the Department of Administration Data Practices office at 651-296-6733 or info.dpo@state.mn.us. or consult your school attorney.

Additional Resources:

https://www.house.leg.state.mn.us/hrd/pubs/openmtg.pdf

https://www.revisor.mn.gov/statutes/cite/13D

https://www.revisor.mn.gov/statutes/cite/124E