Q: We’re right in the path of Hurricane Laura. If one or more of our buildings gets damaged and we need to act quickly to make decisions concerning school operations, can we hold an emergency board meeting without posting 72-hour notice?
A: Yes. If a situation arises constituting an emergency or urgent public necessity, only one-hour notice is required for the Board of Trustees to meet under the Open Meetings Act (“OMA”).
As a general rule, school districts must post notice 72 hours prior to a board meeting; however, the requirement is laxed in the event of an emergency or an urgent public necessity. Pursuant to the OMA, an “emergency or an urgent public necessity” exists if immediate action is required of the school board because of: (1) an imminent threat to public health and safety; or (2) a reasonably unforeseeable situation, including “…hurricane, tornado, wind, rain, or storm; [or] power failure transportation failure, or interruption of communication facilities.” Tex. Gov’t Code § 551.045(b). In these situations, the board is only required to post notice at least one hour before the meeting is convened.
Therefore, if your district needs to take immediate action due to the impact of Hurricane Laura, you may do so inside the 72 hour window so long as you post notice at least one hour prior to the meeting. The notice must include the date, place, and subject of the meeting and clearly set forth the underlying emergency or urgent public necessity warranting the meeting. Importantly, the board may only deliberate and take action on matters directly related to responding to the emergency or urgent public necessity, and in the case of an emergency amendment to a pre-existing agenda, matters previously listed and meeting the 72 hour requirement . Tex. Gov’t Code 551.045(a-1).
If Hurricane Laura prevents the board from convening for a previously scheduled meeting for which notice has already been posted, it may meet at a convenient location within 72 hours following the originally scheduled time without issuing a new notice so long as doing so is in good faith. On the other hand, a new notice must be posted at least one hour prior to the meeting if the board cannot meet within 72 hours of the original posting. For specific questions concerning emergency board meetings, contact your school attorney.