By John E. Fester
August 7, 2019
Effective July 1, 2019, the provision of the School Code allowing for eLearning days in lieu of closing schools and using an emergency make-up day was amended by Public Act 101-0012. Section 5/10-20.56 of the School Code contains the minimum requirements to ensure staff and student participation in an eLearning day will allow the day to be counted as a day of student attendance. However, prior to implementing eLearning days a school district must complete several preliminary tasks before September 1.
Before adopting an eLearning plan, the Board of Education must hold a public hearing at a regular or special meeting during which the terms of the district’s eLearning proposal (i.e. the details of how an eLearning day will be accomplished and comply with the School Code’s requirements) must be “substantially presented” with an opportunity for public comments on the proposal.
Notice of the public hearing must be given at least 10 days prior to the hearing by:
Publication in a newspaper of general circulation in the district;
Written or electronic notice to the parents/guardians of every student enrolled in the District; and
Written or electronic notice to all unions representing employees in the district and to all employees in the district not in a bargaining unit.
Then, before September 1, the Regional Office (or Intermediate Service Center in Cook County) must verify that the proposal for an eLearning program meets the requirements in the School Code.
In addition to these procedural requirements, please keep in mind your obligation to notify all unions of any plans to institute an eLearning program. Preferably, various employee groups would have been involved in the creation of an eLearning program. However, even if teachers, aides and others were involved, the unions may have other concerns that need to be addressed through decisional and impact bargaining. In addition, you may already have bargaining agreement language that specifically addresses what happens on emergency closing days. Having an eLearning day instead of closing raises several mandatory subjects of bargaining, such as what the various employee groups are expected to do before and on those days. Current bargaining agreement language may need to be adjusted to account for how the parties resolve these issues.
If you have any questions regarding implementation of eLearning days, please contact your SHP attorney.