October 07, 2020
The legal and regulatory environment for public education has evolved with the signing of the FY 2020-21 School Aid budget and the issuance of an opinion from the Michigan Supreme Court in response to a request from the U.S. District Court – Western District of Michigan related to the Governor’s authority to extend the state of emergency and whether certain laws are constitutional.
While the FY 2020-21 budget took effect on October 1, the effective date of the Court’s opinion is less clear. Some state and local action has been taken to try to re-establish certain key provisions of the Governor’s executive orders, such as mask orders, with additional administrative, legislative, and local action likely in the coming days and weeks. In short, the rules that apply in some areas of the state are different from what apply in others. That’s why schools and their governing boards are best advised to work with their legal counsel on their specific situations and questions.
Major issues that affect all schools are:
Preparedness Plans (“Plan”). Though the original
requirement for all schools to create Plans in accordance with the
Michigan Safe Schools Return to Learn Roadmap was directed by an
Executive Order, these Plans have been adopted by each school’s
governing board and have been incorporated into the charter contract
as a temporary amendment. All schools are expected to operate with
integrity toward their Plans and all of the safety requirements
contained within until such time as they are amended.
The director of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services has issued two orders related to issues in these plans—one related to masks and one related to reporting of COVID cases at schools. Some local health departments have also issued similar orders. These orders should be reviewed with legal counsel to determine the effect they may have on each school’s Plan.
Extended COVID-19 Learning Plans (“ECLPs”). State
law requires all schools to create ECLPs that, in essences, serve as
a waiver for seat time requirements and provide all schools the
flexibility to offer instruction in multiple ways. The law requiring
the creation of ECLPs originally required boards to re-confirm how
instruction would be delivered under the plan every 30 days. The
state budget amended this requirement to require monthly
re-confirmation. Board calendars should be reviewed and amended
- Public comment must be solicited from parents in the re-confirmation process.
- Weekly two-way interaction rates must be presented at these
board meetings and posted under the transparency (Mitten) icon
on the school’s website
Reporting Requirements. Changes in state law made
through the state budget require schools to report by January 15,
2021, on the amount and type of training provided to teachers
through professional development that was focused on how to deliver
virtual content and on the amount and type of training provided to
parents and students on how to access and use virtual content
provided by the district. This information is also required to be
posted under the transparency (Mitten) icon on the school’s
Two-Way Interactions. The budget expanded the
eligible school personnel for these interactions to include
employees who have responsibility for the student’s learning, grade
progression, or academic progress. The budget also allows either the
student or the teacher to initiate the interaction.
- Open Meetings Act. For the last several months, Executive Orders have relaxed strict compliance with the Open Meetings Act to allow school boards to meet by remote means. Though the Michigan Supreme Court opinion stated the underlying law for these orders cannot continue to provide a basis for them, the Court did not establish a date for this opinion to take effect. Because of this, boards may choose to continue to meet by remote means unless otherwise advised to meet in person on the advice of board legal counsel.
The CSO will continue to monitor these issues and will provide updates accordingly. Do not hesitate to contact your School Consultant with questions in the interim.