School Board Meetings and the Coronavirus
The question has been asked about how school boards should deal with school board meetings in light of the coronavirus. ASBSD recommends conducting all school board meetings by teleconference during the coronavirus crises.
State law allows school boards to conduct meetings by teleconference (SDCL 1-25-12(4) defines “teleconference” as information exchanged by any audio, video, or electronic medium, including the internet). If a school board meeting is held by teleconference and there is less than a majority of school board physically present at the meeting location, the laws requires that arrangements must be made so the public may listen to the telephonic conference call (SDCL 1-25-1.6).
The District must post its notice of meetings with proposed agenda (at the principal place of business and on its website) as it does for all meetings. However, the notice of meeting must include the call-in number for the conference call, and also conference ID number.
There are several things to keep in mind when conducting a school board meeting by teleconference. A school board member is deemed present if the member answers present to the roll call for the purpose of determining a quorum, and each vote at the meeting held by teleconference must be done by roll call (SDCL 1-25-1.5).
Also, there still must be a time for public participation at regular (monthly) school board meetings. While the law does not require a time for public participation at special school board meetings, the Board may want to consider having “public forum” on special meeting agendas during the foreseeable future in order to hear public comments and questions about how the school district is going to proceed in the future to address the education of students.
Additionally, the school board is still permitted to go into executive session for one of the reasons authorized in SDCL 1-25-2. If there is an executive session on the agenda, it is recommended that while in open session during the conference call, the motion is made to go into executive session (and state the statutory provision authorizing the executive session); there is a second and then the vote.
The Board President/Chairperson would then announce the Board will take a short recess and reconvene in executive session in 5 minutes. The open meeting conference call would end. The Board members would then call a second conference call number and punch in the second conference call ID number to access the executive session conference call. When the executive session is done, the Board President/Chairperson would declare the Board out of executive session and again state the Board will reconvene in open session in 5 minutes.
Everyone would hang up, and then call back in to the first conference call number, using the 1st conference ID number. A quorum would be re-established, and the Board would then simply adjourn using its normal procedure. It is recommended that the Board not take any official action when it comes out of the executive session unless absolutely necessary as the above procedure does not allow for the public to be in the open meeting when the Board reconvenes after being in executive session.
Finally, it is also important to keep in mind that SDCL 1-27-1.16 requires that if printed material relating to an agenda item is distributed before the meeting to school board members, at least 24 hours prior to the meeting the material must be posted on the District’s website or made available at the business office. If the printed material is distributed to school board members at the board meeting, the material must also be made available to the public at that time.
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