Key board policies for our moment of crisis

The COVID-19 pandemic presents an unprecedented crisis for school leaders trying to educate, feed and care for students from afar. While there are few easy solutions to today’s challenges, existing board policies can provide crucial tools for addressing these issues. This piece looks at some of the most useful board policies to reference during these turbulent times.

CSBA sample Board Policy 2210 – Administrative Discretion Regarding Board Policy
CSBA sample Board Policy 2210 can be applied to a number of situations that arise in times of crisis when circumstances may not allow for the timely development of new board policy. One example is the recent decision by the University of California and California State University systems to ease admission requirements for students impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Specifically, UC and CSU stated they would:

• Suspend letter grade requirements for A-G courses completed in the winter, spring or summer of 2020 (instead accepting pass or credit ratings on the pss/fail system)
• Relax timelines for the receipt of official transcripts and acceptance of admission offers
• Re-evaluate financial aid packages and eligibility
• Accept credit/no credit for certain core courses taken at community colleges

UC also stated it would waive the SAT or ACT requirement for students applying for the fall of 2021, a decision that CSU is also weighing.

The announcement prompted questions from many CSBA members wondering how the decision would impact their grading and graduation policies and whether they would need to revise those policies or issue new ones to reflect the changes at UC and CSU. The answer is no; the provisions contained within CSBA sample BP 2210 give the superintendent or a designee the discretion to adapt to these new UC and CSU policies, as well as a variety of other scenarios.

Specifically, CSBA sample BP 2210 states that, “the Board recognizes that, in the course of operating district schools or implementing district programs, situations may arise which may not be addressed in written policies. In such situations, or when immediate action is necessary to avoid any risk to the safety or security of students, staff, or district property or to prevent disruption of school operations, the superintendent or designee shall have the authority to act on behalf of the district in a manner that is consistent with law and Board policies.” When exercising this authority, the superintendent remains accountable to the board for all areas of operation and should notify the board as soon as practicable after taking action. It is during these times that the importance of the board and superintendent working as a governance team to act in the best interest of the district is paramount.

Keeping policies updated and emergency alternatives
This unprecedented situation also serves as a reminder of the importance of keeping board policies up to date so when emergencies do happen districts are better prepared to handle the situation. Keeping policies current and knowing the appropriate policy documents to access takes advanced planning and preparation. It may not be practical to try to adopt numerous policies on short notice during this crisis, or to revise policies to address the short-term needs of the district that will hopefully revert to “normal” operation again soon.

But there are alternatives. District boards can delegate emergency authority to the superintendent proactively so that when emergencies arise the superintendent can act as necessary to protect the district, and, most importantly, its students and employees. They may also take official board action through board resolutions when necessary for short-term situations. In any case, districts do not need to be concerned about their existing board policies that may be in conflict with current executive orders issued by the Governor. As stated in CSBA’s sample Board Bylaw 9310 – Board Policies, “No Board policy, bylaw, or administrative regulation, or any portion thereof, shall be operative if it is found to be in conflict with applicable federal or state law or regulations or court decisions.”

The primary function of board policy is to convey the governing board’s expectations for actions that will be taken in the district, clarify roles and responsibilities of the board and superintendent, and communicate board philosophy and vision to students, staff, parents/guardians and the community. But for many school districts and county offices of education, once they are adopted, board policies are only referenced in the face of atypical situations or emergencies that present unique or unfamiliar challenges. We have never been more aware of that than in our current circumstances as we try to navigate the impact of the statewide stay-at-home order and widespread school closures caused by the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). CSBA has compiled a list of policies that are paramount for our members during this time — those in red below are most critical. CSBA policy consultants are available by email ( to answer policy questions.

Covid-19 Related Board Policies and Administrative Regulations
1. BP 0415 Equity
2. BP/AR 0440 District Technology Plan
3. BP/AR 0450 Comprehensive Safety Plan
4. BP 1100 Communication with the Public
5. BP 1112 Media Relations
6. BP/AR 1113 District & School Web Sites
7. BP/AR 1114 District-Sponsored Social Media
8. BP/AR 1240 Volunteer Assistance
9. BP 1400 Relations Between Other Governmental Agencies And The Schools
10. BP 1431 Waivers
11. BP 2210 Administrative Discretion on Board Policy
12. BP 3290 Gifts, Grants and Bequests
13. AR 3311.4 Procurement of Technological Equipment
14. BP/AR 3516 Emergency and Disaster Preparedness Plan
15. BP/AR 3516.5 Emergency Schedules
16. AR 3542 Transportation Safety And Emergencies
17. BP/AR 3550 Food Service/Child Nutrition Program
18. BP/AR 3551 Food Service Operations/Cafeteria Fund
19. BP/AR 3552 Summer Meal Program
20. BP/AR 3553 Free And Reduced Price Meals
21. BP/AR 3555 Nutrition Program Compliance
22. AR 4032 Reasonable Accommodation
23. BP/AR 4040 Employee Use of Technology
24. BP 4119.41 Employees with Infectious Disease
25. BP/AR 4119.43 Universal Precautions
26. BP/AR 4157 Employee Safety
27. BP/AR 4161 Leaves
28. AR 4161.1 Personal Illness
29. AR 4161.8 Family Care and Medical Leave
30. AR 4261.2 Personal Leave
31. BP 5127 Graduation Ceremonies and Activities
32. BP/AR 5141.22 Infectious Diseases
33. BP/AR 6158 Independent Study
34. AR 6159.1 Procedural Safeguards and Complaints for Special Education
35. BB 9010 Public Statements
36. BB 9012 Board Member Electronic Communications
37. BB 9310 Board Policies
38. BB 9323 Meeting Conduct