This version has been updated to include information related to Senate Bills 117 and 89. Please discard the previous version, distributed March 16, 2020. New/revised information from the previous Legal Update is in italics to assist the reader.
After 5:00 p.m. on Friday March 13, 2020, the Governor issued Executive Order N-26-20, which addresses Local Educational Agencies (“LEAs”) and responding to COVID-19 issues. The purpose of this Legal Update is to summarize the Governor’s Executive Order and subsequent clarifying legislation, and to address various other COVID-19 issues in a Frequently Asked Question (“FAQ”) format. Our office will continue to provide legal guidance through Legal Updates during the ongoing situation.
In summary, the Governor provided that if schools close temporarily because of COVID-19, to maintain funding, school districts must:
- Continue delivering high-quality educational opportunities to students through other options, distance learning and independent study;
- Safely provide school meals through the Summer Food Service Program and Seamless Summer Option, consistent with the requirements of the California Department of Education and U.S. Department of Agriculture;
- To the extent practicable, arrange for supervision for students during ordinary school hours; and
- Continue to pay employees.
The Governor acknowledged through this Executive Order that the decision to close an LEA is a local decision, and does not mandate that schools close.
The Executive Order also clarified that effective immediately, “the LEA is not prohibited from offering distance learning or independent study to impacted students. To the extent any state or local law might have been interpreted to the contrary, that law is waived.”
Districts are encouraged to consider whether the provision of distance learning and/or independent study meets the needs of their students during this time. In considering this, we remind Districts to view the decision through a lens of equity of access and whether they can provide a free and appropriate education for special education students.
The Executive Order also waives the 175-school day mandate set forth in Education Code Section 41422, so long as LEAs comply with the requirements to maintain funding, set forth above. In addition, Senate Bill 117 waived all instructional minutes requirements.
Finally, as a reminder, Superintendents and other Chief School Officials have the inherent authority pursuant to the Education Code to close a school in the event of an emergency, as discussed in Legal Update 10-2020, “Quarantine and Issues Related to COVID-19.” There is no requirement that a Governing Board first provide authority. Nevertheless, LEAs may choose to have their Governing Boards adopt a resolution acknowledging this inherent authority or ratifying the decision of the Superintendent of Schools. We have included as an attachment with this Legal Update a model resolution that your LEA may adopt providing such.
Many County Health Officials are recommending a closure of at least 2 weeks, beginning immediately. We recommend that LEAs review their plans and consider the ongoing impact of such closures on their students and staff prior to making any decisions. Our office is fully staffed and available for you during this time.
Please contact our office with questions regarding this Legal Update or any other legal matter.
The information in this Legal Update is provided as a summary of law and is not intended as legal advice. Application of the law may vary depending on the particular facts and circumstances at issue. We, therefore, recommend that you consult legal counsel to advise you on how the law applies to your specific situation.
© 2020 School and College Legal Services of California
All rights reserved. However, SCLS grants permission to any current SCLS client to use, reproduce, and distribute this Legal Update in its entirety for the client’s own non-commercial purposes.
 LEAs include school districts, county offices of education, and charter schools.
 Please see the attached “FAQ” for further clarification on the availability of the J-13A waiver.
 In addition to the Education Code, LEAs may have adopted CSBA model policy 3516.5 which additionally states the authority of the Superintendent to close schools.