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Operating a School in States of Emergency

Operating a School in States of Emergency

How can schools continue to operate in states of emergency like the flooding we're currently experiencing?

Governor Stitt has signed an executive order declaring all 77 Oklahoma counties to be under a state of emergency due to recent extensive storm and flood damage. At the time of this writing, our state has schools literally underwater or facing that possibility.The executive order pursuant to the Oklahoma Emergency Management Act of 2003 allows state agencies, including local political subdivisions, to make emergency purchases and to take actions necessary to facilitate getting various types of assistance from state and federal authorities. Statutory provisions of the Act may be found here.

Similarly, boards of education facing individual emergency situations at other times may use a process to ensure they have quick access to help with cleanup, remediation and other matters. By a 2/3 majority vote of the board declaring that an emergency exists within the school district, officials can move forward without having to adhere to the normal requirements of competitive bidding, for example. This can be critical to a school’s ability to salvage and move forward after a crisis. The statutory provisions of the Public Competitive Bidding Act as pertains to emergencies may be found here.

Further, how should schools handle the notice requirements for board meetings under these types of catastrophic circumstances? The Oklahoma Open Meeting Act tells us that when there is an emergency and not enough time to comply with the notice requirements of a special meeting, boards may have an emergency meeting. Be mindful, however, that emergency meetings must be held only for true emergencies. The Act gives a good deal of flexibility for such meetings, requiring only as much notice to the public as is practicable under the circumstances. Statutory provisions for emergency meetings may be found at A(13) here.

Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions about emergency situations or need assistance with agenda language or other practical matters that may arise.

Terri Thomas

Legal Services

Terri Thomas serves as Director of Legal Services for OPSRC. Ms. Thomas is an attorney practicing exclusively in the area of Oklahoma school law, with a primary focus on rural and smaller school districts. Prior to OPSRC, she served as legal counsel for the Organization of Rural Oklahoma Schools (OROS).

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