On March 25, the Ohio General Assembly passed Am. Sub. H. B. 197, a wide-ranging bill to address the COVID-19 pandemic. The bill will become effective immediately upon the signature of Governor DeWine and he stated he will sign the bill tomorrow, March 27, 2020. Many of the new law’s provisions impact schools and how they operate during the pandemic emergency.
Schools May Adopt or Amend Plans to Make up Lost Hours
Current law permits school districts to adopt plans each year to make up hours in that school year during which it is necessary to close. Districts can make up the equivalent of three school days by providing online lessons or “blizzard bags.” HB 197 provides districts the option to adopt or amend a plan to make up any number of hours for the 2019-2020 school year during which schools were closed in compliance with the Director of Health’s order, local board of health order, or an extension of an order.
Board Meetings May Be Held by Teleconference and Video Conference
During the emergency, public bodies, including boards of education, may conduct meetings and hearings by teleconference, video conference, or other similar electronic technology. Board members who attend in this manner are considered present as if in person at the meeting, may vote, and are counted for purposes of determining quorum. The law provides that any resolution, rule or formal action of any kind shall have the same effect as if it had occurred in an open meeting or hearing of the public body. Public bodies must provide 24 hours’ notice of a meeting by reasonable methods to the public and to media that have requested notification. The notice must include the time, location, and the manner by which the meeting will be conducted. Public bodies must provide public access to a meeting by live streaming on the internet, local radio, television, call in information for a teleconference, or any other similar electronic technology.
No Statewide Assessments or Report Card Grades or Rankings for 2019-2020
Districts do not have to administer any statewide assessments this school year. ODE will not assign grades on report cards or rankings, but will still publish data regarding school performance.
Superintendent of Public Instruction Authority to Waive or Extend Deadlines
The new law provides authority to the Superintendent of Public Instruction to waive or extend various deadlines, including deadlines related to the following: school personnel evaluations, nonrenewal deadlines, school safety drills, emergency management tests, filling board vacancies, updating teacher evaluation policies to conform to the OTES 2.0 framework, and identification and screening of gifted students.
The new law prohibits the use of value-added progress dimension data from the 2019-2020 school year to measure student learning attributable to the teacher being evaluated. Under the new law, districts may elect not to conduct an evaluation of an employee of the district for 2019-2020, if the district board determines that it would be impossible or impracticable to do so.
High School Seniors Can Still Graduate
Boards may grant diplomas to high school seniors who were on track to graduate or complete their IEP prior to school closure. The school principal, in consultation with the student’s teachers and counselors, reviews the student’s progress toward meeting the requirements for a diploma and determines whether the student had successfully completed the curriculum in the student’s high school or the student’s IEP at the time of the closure.
Providers Can Offer Telehealth to Students
Intervention specialists, and individuals licensed by the Ohio Speech and Hearing Professionals Board, Ohio Occupational Therapy, Physical Therapy, and Athletic Trainers Board, the State Board of Psychology, and the Counselor, Social Worker, and Marriage and Family Therapist Board are specifically authorized to provide services via electronic delivery method or telehealth communication to students who had received these services through their school districts prior to the Director of Health’s order.
Absentee Voting Is Extended Until April 28
Absentee voting for the March 17, 2020 election has been extended until April 28, 2020. Individuals must have registered to vote by February 18, 2020 to be eligible to vote in the election.
The Department of Education will only award first-time performance-based EdChoice Scholarships for the 2020-2021 school year to a student: (a) whose sibling received a performance-based scholarship in the 2019-2020 school year, (b) who is enrolled in, or would be enrolled in, a school building that satisfied the conditions for eligibility for performance-based scholarships in the 2019-2020 school year, and (c) who was enrolled in a public or nonpublic school in any of grades K-12 or was homeschooled for the equivalent of those grades for the 2019-2020 school year, or will be enrolled in kindergarten in a public or nonpublic school or will begin homeschooling for the equivalent of kindergarten in the 2020-2021 school year. The Department of Education will begin processing EdChoice applications for the 2021-2022 school year on February 1, 2021.
As a reminder, issues related to COVID-19 are fluid and subject to rapid change. Please note that 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 on our cell phone, at (614) 222-8686, or via email.