Civic Center Act and Facilities Use in the Time of COVID-19
With reopening efforts occurring throughout California, school districts will likely face questions from organizations (like parent-teacher associations, the Girl Scouts, churches, etc.) who regularly use school facilities pursuant to the Civic Center Act (Government Code § 38130 et seq.) (“Act”). School districts should begin considering how to handle future requests from applicants in light of the new health and safety requirements regarding COVID-19.
The Act declares that every public school facility is a civic center in which the public may meet and engage in certain activities. Yet, the Act also authorizes a governing board to adopt the terms and conditions for the use of facilities as a civic center. Notably, governing boards are responsible for creating rules and regulations relating to the management, direction, and control of school facilities to preserve order in school facilities and on school grounds, to protect school facilities and school grounds, and to ensure that use of school facilities or grounds is not inconsistent with the use of the facilities or grounds for school purposes.
There are several matters to consider for existing and future Act applications during COVID-19, especially once school districts reopen their schools and school facilities:
- Does your form application and form agreement, include social distancing requirements or personal protection equipment for all events/meetings? Are amendments necessary for existing agreements or documents?
- What safety protocols do you want to implement as part of the use of school district facilities under the Act? Are amendments necessary for existing regulations or policies?
- Do applicants typically require the assistance of school district staff for set-up or clean-up duties at the facility? Do you currently have staff available to accommodate such requests pursuant to the Act?
- Will you need to adjust the direct costs you will charge applicants under the Act to comply with stricter cleaning requirements?
- While school districts remain closed (including its schools and school facilities), how will your staff respond to inquiries from organizations requesting to use school facilities (either for existing or for future agreements)?
- Has your governing board approved a resolution delegating authority to its Superintendent to make decisions to protect the safety of students, staff, and school facilities during COVID-19? Does the delegation address use of school facilities under the Act?
As the Act authorizes governing boards of school districts to promulgate rules and regulations necessary to preserve and protect its school facilities, school districts should consider adopting a policy relative to its existing and future Civic Center Act applications during an epidemic/pandemic. This policy could require applicants and facility users to adhere to all federal, state, or local public health orders. This policy should also provide clarity to staff and the public as to when and how such applications will be processed during the COVID-19 crisis (or any other future health crisis) and describe how facilities under the Act may be utilized as school districts begin to open their facilities to students, staff, and the public.
If you have questions concerning Civic Center Act requests or policies, please contact the attorneys listed.
This AALRR publication is intended for informational purposes only and should not be relied upon in reaching a conclusion in a particular area of law. Applicability of the legal principles discussed may differ substantially in individual situations. Receipt of this or any other AALRR publication does not create an attorney-client relationship. The Firm is not responsible for inadvertent errors that may occur in the publishing process.
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