In accordance with the Governor’s emergency order, the Arkansas Division of Elementary and Secondary Education has waived several education statutes and rules from now through April 17, 2020. The list of waived statutes and rules is intended to be updated as circumstances change so we recommend checking the list regularly. The most recent list of waivers can be found here:
Included in the list of statutory waivers are two relevant to school board meetings: the requirement for boards to meet monthly while school is in session (A.C.A. § 6-13-619(a)(1)(a)) and the requirement for board members to be physically present to be counted for establishing a quorum and to vote (A.C.A. § 6-13-619(c)(1)(A)). Based on these waivers, below are some answers to common questions we’ve been receiving.
Q: Do we have to hold our regular monthly meeting?
A: Not during the period of the waiver.
Q: If the entire board is using remote means to attend the meeting, do we still have to provide space for the public to attend?
A: Yes. The requirement for a space to be provided so that the public can hear the board’s discussion comes from the Freedom of Information Act (A.C.A. § 25-19-106) rather than the education statutes. We would recommend that notifications to the public about the board holding a meeting inform the public where the space has been provided for the public to attend, that the board hopes that the public will use good judgment on deciding on whether to attend the meeting, and that a recording of the meeting will be provided to interested individuals upon request.
Q: Are we still required to record our meetings?
A: Yes. As with the requirement for there to be a place for the public to attend the meeting, the requirement for the meeting to be recorded comes from the Freedom of Information Act (A.C.A. § 25-19-106) rather than from the education statutes. We would advise district administration to have discussions with district IT staff on the best methods to use for recording the meeting as well as discussing with the members of the board as to what options provided by district IT would work best for them.
Q: Are we allowed to enter executive session during a meeting where all board members are attending remotely?
A: Not at this time. The statute that prohibits the board from entering executive session without a quorum being physically present (A.C.A. § 6-13-619(c)(3)) has not been waived as of March 20, 2020.
Q: Are we still restricted to using remotely attending board members to meet the quorum requirement to a maximum of three times?
A: Not during the duration of the waivers.
Q: Are we able to hold meetings dealing with personnel before 5:00 P.M.?
A: Not at this time. The statutory language restricting meetings dealing with personnel matters to being after 5:00 P.M. (A.C.A. § 6-13-619(a)(3)) has not been waived as of March 20, 2020.