As this week of dramatic change comes to a close, we hope it finds you and your loved ones safe. One thing that has become very clear during this time is how important public schools are to the entire fabric of their communities. We, at OSBA, are ready to help districts as they continue to perform vital functions for students and their families.
There is so much new information available, with changes every day, one blog post couldn’t possibly cover it all. This post will focus on provisions of HB 197, Ohio’s Coronavirus Relief Act.
This wide-ranging act provides guidance in a number of areas that are important for school districts. This synopsis, prepared by the Ohio Legislative Service Commission, breaks down the COVID-19 relief-related aspects of the bill. These provisions remain in effect only during the period of emergency declared by Governor DeWine, but no later than Dec. 1, 2020. Some of the key areas addressed in the act affecting public schools include:
- Open meetings act compliance: Sec. 12 of the act permits any public body, including a board of education, to hold its meetings via electronic means, including using video-conferencing. If board members participate in a meeting via electronic means, they will be considered present at the meeting, counted as part of the quorum and able to vote as if they were attending the meeting in person.
- Guidance for providing instruction: Sec. 15 provides that school districts, community schools and STEM schools can adopt or amend their plans to allow students to complete classroom assignments posted on the district’s or school’s website for any number of hours schools were closed in the 2019-2020 school year.
- Providing related services via alternative methods: Sec. 16 allows for services to be provided to students with disabilities via electronic delivery methods or telehealth communication. It also prohibits any licensing board from taking disciplinary action against any person who provides services under Sec. 16. This covers any person licensed by these state boards: Speech and Hearing Professionals; Psychology; Occupational Therapy, Physical Therapy, and Athletic Trainers; Counselor, Social Worker, and Marriage and Family Therapists; and Medical. For intervention specialists, the bill also includes the State Board of Education.
- Assessments: Sec. 17(A) waives the requirement that schools administer annual assessments for the 2019-2020 school year.
- Report cards: Sec. 17(B) provides that the state shall not issue state report cards for districts, or assign letter grades for districts or buildings, for the 2019-2020 school year.
- Third-grade retention: Sec. 17(C) provides guidelines for retention of third-grade students based on performance in reading.
- Graduation: Sec. 17(D) establishes guidelines for districts to determine whether students are qualified to graduate from high school.
- Provisional license: Sec. 17(H) provides that ODE can issue one-year, nonrenewable provisional licenses for any person who has met all requirements for a license except for the requirement to pass an examination in the subject area.
Other provisions in the act related to education include waiver of deadlines, including deadlines for administrator and employee evaluations, by the Superintendent of Public Instruction (Sec. 17(I)), modification of the college-credit plus program by the Chancellor of Higher Education (Sec. 17(J), and waiving the requirement for yearly assessments for home-schooled students (Sec. 17(L).
In closing, and using Governor DeWine’s words: “We’re all in this together.” Please rely on OSBA to assist you and your district or ESC administrators as you guide your staff, students, parents and communities through this crisis. We are here to help you. OSBA will be providing more information about these provisions over the following days and weeks as it becomes available. For the latest resources and guidance involving school districts, check out OSBA’s COVID-19 resources page, which is updated daily. Although we are working remotely, OSBA’s legal team is available during the workday on Monday through Friday at (855) 672-2529 or (855) OSBA-LAW.