The transition from Minnesota’s stay-at-home directive to the current stay safe environment may lead some school boards to alter their board meeting approach. It is important to keep in mind that the peacetime state of emergency and pandemic declaration remain in effect. MSBA offers guidance below with recognition that the manner in which a school board holds its meetings is largely a matter of local control.
A school board may choose to return to in-person meetings, depending upon its assessment of public health factors. A board would be well advised to limit attendance to 10 people, as set forth by the CDC and MDH, until further notice. In addition, a board should ensure that other public health practices — including social distancing, hand hygiene, and other preventative measures — are followed.
These in-person meetings may be held under Minnesota Statutes 13D.021 (remote meeting statute) because the peacetime state of emergency and the pandemic continue. This statute allows the board to determine that the public may not attend in person if “attendance at the regular meeting location is not feasible due to the health pandemic or emergency declaration.”
Under the remote meeting statute, the board must provide remote access. This step allows the public to follow the public meeting, which is important (1) if the board has prohibited public attendance; or (2) even if public attendance is permitted, some members of the public may be health-compromised and unable to attend an in-person meeting.
A school board should recognize that board members, staff, and other meeting participants (or their family members) may have compromised health conditions that preclude in-person attendance. A board should avoid setting up a situation in which a person feels compelled to accept health risks in order to attend a meeting in person.
For this reason, board members, employees, and other meeting participants should be offered remote access for the duration of the pandemic. In a related point, close consideration should be given to whether minors — including students and student representatives on the board — will be permitted to enter the meeting location or will be provided remote access.
Media may request access to the meeting location if the school board returns to in-person meetings. A school board should anticipate this likelihood as it contemplates a return to in-person meetings.
In making these decisions, it is important to note that Executive Order 20-20 states, “Minnesotans working in any field are encouraged to work from their home or residence as much as possible.”
Please see Minnesota’s Stay Safe Plan for additional guidance.