Boards may meet without a physical meeting space for the public, and may receive updates on COVID-19 from officials

On March 17, 2020, Gov. Gavin Newsom issued a second executive order impacting meetings held by school district and county office of education boards. Executive Order N-29-20 superseded paragraph 11 of the March 12, 2020, Executive Order N-25-20, which required local educational agencies to provide a physical location from where members of the public could participate in a board meeting.

This overriding Executive Order N-29-20 provides that boards no longer need to make space available for the public to appear at any physical location. The order helps ensure public safety and continued public participation in board meetings while the state’s stay-at-home policy remains in effect.

Under the order, a governing board may hold public meetings that are accessible by telephone or otherwise electronically to all members of the public seeking to observe and address the board. The requirements of the Brown Act that would normally require the physical presence of members, the clerk and other personnel are waived.

Under the order, the public must be able to observe and address the meeting by telephone or other electronic means. Governing boards must implement a procedure for receiving and resolving requests for reasonable accommodations from individuals with disabilities. The meeting agenda and notice must include the procedure by which the public may observe the meeting and offer public comment.

Other pre-existing Brown Act notice and agenda requirements not waived by the order remain in effect.

The Governor’s March 21, 2020, Executive Order N-35-20 also includes additional provisions relevant to school district and county office of education boards. Under this order, members of a local legislative body or state body may receive updates relevant to the declared emergency (including updates concerning the impacts of COVID-19, the government response to COVID-19 and other aspects relevant to the declared emergency) from federal, state and local officials, and may ask questions of those officials in order for members of the board to stay apprised of emergency operations and impacts on their constituents. Nothing in this order permits the members of a board to take action on, or to discuss among themselves, any item of business that is within the subject matter jurisdiction of the board without complying with otherwise applicable requirements of the Brown Act.

For more on Brown Act requirements, see CSBA’s blog post from March 18.