At a special session March 17, the Hilliard school board authorized emergency powers for Superintendent John Marschhausen and treasurer Brian Wilson while the district is closed to students because of the COVID-19 coronavirus.

“With this resolution comes a new level of responsibility,” Marschhausen told board members.

Hilliard City Council made a similar move March 16 because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic that has brought sweeping action statewide in an effort to contain the spread of the disease. Council voted unanimously to name City Manager Michelle Crandall as acting emergency-management director and vested her with the power to suspend or amend sections of the city code as necessary.

On March 17, the five board members and three administrators were the only ones present.

The 9 p.m. meeting, held at the district’s central offices and closed to the public in-person based on directives and guidance from Gov. Mike DeWine and Attorney General Dave Yost to control the spread of the coronavirus, was livestreamed via the district website.

Marschhausen pledged to inform board members daily about the actions of the administration.

Some of what was required to occur in response to state directives “is a clear departure from our normal daily operations,” Marschhausen said.

Board President Mark Abate said the resolution represents the board’s “declaration of our trust and faith” in the administration to take the steps necessary to continue educating children during the coronavirus pandemic.

The resolution authorizes Marschhausen and Wilson, without board approval when otherwise required, “to take any and all actions necessary to maintain educational programming for students and provide for the safety of all students and staff,” including “implementing curriculum as appropriate, purchasing, obtaining, leasing or otherwise utilizing and paying for all necessary supplies, services, technology and equipment necessary for education through alternative means … and complying with orders and guidance issued by federal and state government and agencies in response to the COVID-19 crisis.”

The resolution, which was approved 5-0, grants the emergency power while the district is closed to students or until May 29, whichever comes first.

DeWine on March 12 ordered the closure of public schools after March 16 until April 3, but he suggested March 15 that the three-week closure might not be sufficient.

Beginning Wednesday, March 18, the district will employ digital learning through Friday, March 20, will be “a test run” for teachers and students, Marschhausen said.

After the district’s scheduled spring break from March 23 to 27, the district will resume digital learning March 30 to April 3.

“After that, we are in it for the long haul, and there is every indication (the closure) will go longer than the current order,” Marschhausen said.”We are prepared to finish the year, if necessary, with eLearning.”

He said he considers the district as well prepared as any high school or higher-education institution to employ the practice of digital learning.

Board members also opted to postpone an April 6 work session at which discussion was expected about a planned operating levy in the fall and the district’s master facility plan.

The work session was not rescheduled.

“We did not think it appropriate to have those discussions in light of the pandemic,” said Stacie Raterman, director of communications for the district.

The board’s next scheduled meeting is set for 6:30 p.m. April 13 at Washington Elementary School, and, for now, board meetings are expected to continue, Raterman said March 18.

Meetings will be livestreamed, but as of March 18, the district had no practice to record and archive board meetings, Raterman said.

For the April 13 meeting, a procedure will be in place for people to email questions or statements that will be read into the record, she said.

The April 13 meetings will be livestreamed either by Zoom, the platform used March 17, or another that is deemed appropriate, Raterman said.

“We are reevaluating our practices every day,” she said.

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