Last week, the Ohio General Assembly enacted H.B. 404. The bill extends and expands several temporary laws enacted in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Many of the new law’s provisions impact schools and their operations. The bill contains an emergency clause and will become effective immediately when signed by the Governor.
Extension of Authority for Remote Board Meetings
The new law extends the temporary law permitting political subdivisions, including boards of education, to continue to conduct meetings and hearings by teleconference, video conference, or other similar electronic technology through July 1, 2021. The previous law was set to expire December 1, 2020.
Relief from Penalties for Failure to Administer Assessments to Certain Individual Students
The new law provides school districts may not be penalized for failing to administer in the fall of 2020 an otherwise required Kindergarten Readiness Assessment, diagnostic assessment, or third-grade English Language Arts achievement assessment to a particular student, if:
- The student is being quarantined;
- The student, or a member of the student’s family, is medically compromised, and the student cannot attend school, or another physical location outside of the home, for the testing;
- The student resides in a geographic area subject to an order issued by the Governor, the Department of Health, or the board of health of a city or general health district requiring all persons in that area to remain in their residences; or
- The student is receiving instruction primarily through a remote learning model up through the deadline for the prescribed assessments, and the assessment cannot be administered remotely.
Kindergarten and First Grade Health Screenings
The new law provides school districts may not be penalized for failing to conduct an otherwise required health screening for a particular student in kindergarten or first grade prior to November 1, 2020, if:
- The student was being quarantined;
- The student, or a member of the student’s family, was medically compromised, and the student could not attend school, or another physical location outside of the home, for the screening;
- The student resided in an area subject to a stay-at-home order from the Governor, Department of Health, or local board of health; or
- The student was receiving instruction primarily through a remote learning model, and the screening could not be administered remotely.
The law requires boards to conduct these screenings for the 2020-2021 school year; however, the district may forego screenings until they can be conducted safely.
Optional Transportation and Funding for Community Schools
The new law permits a community school to accept responsibility to provide or arrange for transportation of its students for the 2020-2021 school year by December 31, 2020 (rather than January 1 of the preceding school year as otherwise required under continuing law). If a community school accepts responsibility to provide or arrange for transportation, it must receive state transportation funding for the entire school year.
The new law extends and expands several changes to educator evaluations. H.B. 404:
- Specifies for the 2020-2021 school year a board of education may elect not to complete a performance evaluation of a district employee, including a teacher, school counselor, administrator, or superintendent if the board determines it is impossible or impracticable to do so.
- Extends to the 2021-2022 school year a prohibition against using value-added data, other high-quality student data, any other metric used to evaluate positive student outcomes, or any other academic growth data to measure student learning attributable to a teacher, principal, or school counselor while conducting performance evaluations.
- Extends to the 2020-2021 school year a separate authorization for a board to complete a principal’s performance evaluation without a student growth measure.
- Extends the authority for a school district that did not participate in the OTES 2.0 pilot program to continue evaluating teachers on two-year or three-year evaluation cycles, even if the district completes an evaluation for those teachers in the 2020-2021 school year without using a student growth measure.
- Specifies a teacher who did not have a student growth measure as part of an evaluation for the 2019-2020 or 2020-2021 school year must remain at the same point in the teacher’s evaluation cycle, and retain the same evaluation rating, for the 2020-2021 and 2021-2022 school year as for the 2019-2020 school year.
College Credit Plus Extension, Waiver & Modification Authority
The new law extends the authority for the Chancellor of Higher Education to extend, waive, or modify requirements of the College Credit Plus Program for the 2020-2021 and 2021-2022 school years. Under H.B. 197, this authority was granted for the 2019-2020 school year only.
Extension of Food Processing Exemption for Certain Summer Food Programs
The new law extends from December 1, 2020, to July 1, 2021, the termination date of provisions authorizing the Director of Agriculture to exempt certain schools or entities from regulation as food processing establishments.
Additional Extension of HB 197 Deadlines
The Act extends from December 1, 2020, until July 1, 2021, certain deadlines initially extended by H.B. 197, enacted this past spring. The new law:
- Extends, from December 1, 2020, until July 1, 2021, the temporary extension of deadlines under H.B. 197 of the 133rd General Assembly, which a state agency must meet if the deadlines occur on or before April 1, 2021.
- Extends, from December 1, 2020, until July 1, 2021, the deadline for any action needed to maintain a valid license, if that deadline originally was set to expire between March 9, 2020 and April 1, 2021.
- Extends, from December 1, 2020, until July 1, 2021, the deadline for renewing a license, if that license originally was set to expire between March 9, 2020 and April 1, 2021.
As a reminder, issues related to COVID-19 are fluid and subject to rapid change. Please note this new law supplements and supersedes prior updates. Additional information about Coronavirus and the State’s response can be found here.
This communication is intended as general information and should not be relied upon as legal advice. If legal advice is required, please contact any of our attorneys.