The Hilliard school board has scheduled a special emergency meeting at 9 p.m. Tuesday, March 17.
The meeting will be livestreamed.
By 6 p.m. March 17, a link will be posted at hilliardschools.org to view the meeting but the district had not yet determined a platform, Stacie Raterman, director of communications for Hilliard schools, said Monday, March 16, shortly after the meeting was announced.
The meeting is expected to be remote, with board members at their residences, but those logistics were not yet clear, Raterman said.
Raterman said because the district is “following the directions from the governor’s staff and in an overabundance of caution to protect our board members, staff and the community, the meeting will be closed to the public, but broadcast live.”
Gov. Mike DeWine has issued a battery orders, including the closure of public schools in Ohio at least through the beginning of April and the closure of restaurants and bars for indoor service through an unspecified date, to contain the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus in the past week.
On March 13, Attorney General David Yost wrote to elected officials that in keeping with DeWine’s order prohibiting gatherings of more than 100 people, “we are now presented with a situation in which a public body might not be able to comply with both the terms of the order and the Open Meetings Act. Stopping the business of government is not an option, and we must now reconcile the two.”
Yost wrote that local officials can meet in a telephone conference or virtual call but that the public must be able to hear all discussions and deliberations, and if any officials’ connection is dropped, the meeting must be suspended until it is restored.
As the business of government must continue, “it is reasonable to read the OMA’s ‘in-person’ requirement as permitting a member of the public body to appear at a public meeting via teleconference,” Yost wrote.
Of course, if a member of a public body chooses to appear via teleconference or telephone, it is imperative that all other requirements of the OMA be fulfilled, he wrote. A quorum also must be present.
“Further, even in this time of a public-health crisis, public access to the business of Ohio’s public bodies is still vital,” he wrote. “It is also still required by the (Open Meetings Act). Although the OMA does not specifically dictate how a meeting is made ‘open’ to the public, in the interest of complying with both (director of the Ohio Department of Health) Dr. (Amy) Acton’s order and the OMA, a meeting could be made ‘open’ to the public by livestreaming it through the internet or on television.
“If a public body gives the public access to a meeting electronically and the members of the body appear telephonically, the body must still ensure that the public is able to hear the discussions and deliberations of all of the members, even those who are present via telephonic means.
“Finally, all other requirements of the OMA will apply, including those that govern notice, executive session and the taking of meeting minutes.”