On February 5, 2020, 2019 Wisconsin Act 96 (Act 96) was enacted into law and subsequently became effective on February 6, 2020.  Act 96 takes an important step in modernizing the manner in which school boards may notify their school board members of upcoming special meetings.

In its previous form, Wis. Stat. § 120.11(2) provided that if a school board planned to hold a special meeting, the board clerk, in the clerk’s absence, the board president must notify each school board member, in writing, of the time and place of a special meeting of the school board at least twenty-four (24) hours before said meeting.  Further, these notices were required to be delivered personally to each school board member or mailed via first class mail to each school board member’s residence.  

Act 96 updates these notification requirements to provide more commonly utilized means of communication.  At its core, Act 96:

  1. Requires the clerk or, in the clerk’s absence, the president to notify each school board member of the meeting in a manner likely to give the member notice of the meeting.
  2. Specifies that the date, time, and place for the meeting must be set by the clerk or, in the clerk’s absence, the president.
  3. Provides that, if a clerk or, in the clerk’s absence, the president determines that providing notice at least 24 hours before the meeting is, for good cause shown by the clerk or president, impossible or impractical, the clerk or president may notify each school board member of the date, time, and place of the meeting less than 24 hours, but not less than 2 hours, before the meeting.

Wisconsin State Senator Luther Olsen summarized the first and most impactful of these updates with the following statement in support of Act 96’s passage:

This legislation updates current practice and allows for more flexibility by giving the school boards the option to give notice of a special meeting by email, text message, phone call, personally, or via first class mail as is current practice.

Along with the flexibility Act 96 offers for providing notice, Wis. Stat. § 120.11(2) was further modified to mirror the “emergency meeting” exception to the standard twenty-four (24) hour notice requirements found in the state’s Open Meetings Law.  Wis. Stat. § 19.84(3).  Under the new law, a school district clerk or president may provide less than the twenty-four (24) hours of notice before a special meeting is held, so long as circumstances exist that make this timeline impossible or impractical.  However, under no circumstances may less than two (2) hours of notice be provided.

As Act 96 is now in effect, Wisconsin school boards should take advantage of the ability to notify school board members of special meetings via the most convenient and efficient forms of communication available.