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COVID-19: Additional Guidance Regarding FOIA, Timeline Waivers and Budget Extensions

March 16, 2020

Given the rapidly evolving nature of the COVID-19 outbreak and the information made available to us by public officials at this time, we wanted to provide school districts the following updates as they develop. 

Electronic Meetings

On Saturday, March 14, 2020, Governor Lamont signed Executive Order No. 7B suspending certain Freedom of Information statutes to allow public agencies (such as a board of education and any committees of the board) the flexibility necessary to promote and secure the safety of Connecticut residents.

Specifically, Executive Order No. 7B suspends the requirements (statutory, charter, ordinance or regulation) that public agencies hold open meetings and specifically allows public agencies to prohibit in-person public access to such meetings upon meeting certain conditions. Executive Order No. 7B further permits public agencies to “to hold such meetings or proceedings remotely by conference call, videoconference or other technology” on the condition that public access to the meeting and actions taken at such meeting be provided as follows:

  1. The public must have the ability to view or listen to each meeting in real time, by telephone, video, or other technology;
  2. Any such meeting must be recorded or transcribed and posted on the Board’s website within 7 days of the meeting or proceeding;
  3. The notice and agenda must be posted on the Board's website with information about how the meeting will be conducted and how the public can access it;
  4. Any materials relevant to matters on the agenda must be submitted to the agency at least 24 hours prior to the meeting and posted to the agency's website for public inspection prior to, during, and after the meeting;
  5. All speakers that take part in the meeting must clearly state their name and title, if applicable, before speaking on each occasion that they speak.

School Cancellation and Related Waivers

After a challenging week, Governor Lamont also signed Executive Order No. 7C yesterday evening cancelling all public school classes for all students until March 31, 2020. To further address the impact of COVID-19 and school cancellations, Governor Lamont correspondently authorized the Commissioner of Education to temporarily waive:

  1. graduation and courses of study requirements,
  2. timelines for educator certification (teacher, substitute and administrator    certification)
  3. timelines for teacher evaluation and support,
  4. timelines for the employment, “tenure” and termination of teachers, and
  5. timelines for required in-service trainings and professional development.

At this time, CSDE has not yet provided specific guidance related to the implementation of these waivers. We urge school officials to continue to monitor advisories from the State Department of Education and other guidance, including www.ctschoollaw.com, as the situation continues to evolve. 

Extension of Budget Submission Deadlines

Recognizing the need to provide municipalities and regional boards of education flexibility in the preparation of the budget for fiscal year ending June 30, 2021, Executive Order No. 7C allows for the extension of each respective deadline as follows:

  1. Municipal budget deadlines scheduled prior to and including May 15, 2020 may be extended by 30 days.
  2. Regional board of education budget deadlines scheduled prior to and including May 15, 2020 may also be extended by 30 days.  Regional boards of education may alter or modify the schedules and deadlines pertaining to the preparation, submission and action on a proposed budget.

We understand that the concern presented by the developing presence of COVID-19 in Connecticut raises numerous issues related to the operation of school districts and we will continue to keep you updated as we monitor the situation. 

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