Governor’s Executive Order and Impacts on School Construction Projects
During the evening of March 19, 2020 Governor Newsom issued Executive Order No. N-33-20, which ordered all Californians to “stay at home,” with certain exemptions for essential services and critical infrastructure projects. This Order has prompted questions and caused some high level of new angst https://covid19.ca.gov/img/Executive-Order-N-33-20.pdf. The question we explore in this memorandum is:
Does Governor Newsom’s Executive Order No. N-33-20 include and thus impact K-12 public school construction projects that are in progress or about to commence?
In consultation with members of the CASH Legal Advisory Committee, CASH leadership believes school construction projects are included in those projects exempted in the Executive Order to the degree that the construction projects are “essential” in meeting the obligations of the school district or county office (LEAs) responsible for the project. Schools are closed as public buildings and central offices may not be open to the public, however, the legal responsibilities and functions of school districts and county offices of education (LEAs) have not ceased. The key to understanding the Order is found on the state website, which was updated at 11:22 on March 19 to clarify the extent of the Order and provides:
“The California State Public Health Officer and Director of the California Department of Public Health is ordering all individuals living in the State of California to stay home or at their place of residence, except as needed to maintain continuity of operation of the federal critical infrastructure sectors, critical government services, schools, childcare, and construction, including housing construction.”
CASH leaders urge LEAs to review each of their respective construction projects on a case-by-case basis to determine whether these projects are “essential” to meeting their responsibilities and obligations. If essential, we believe that such projects may proceed. We recommend, however, that each LEA consult the guidance of their legal counsel in each project matter.
LEAs must be prepared to re-establish all services to students once the Governor determines that schools reopen. School facilities, including classrooms, toilet rooms, kitchens and food service facilities, school nurse offices, school-based health clinics and administrative offices are essential to providing those services. In the view of CASH leadership all LEAs must be prepared and ready to accept and serve students upon direction of the Governor.
A majority of LEAs in California have agreements with contractors and others in the private sector to deliver projects. Our recommendation is that each LEA communicate with each contractor to determine if work is to continue, and, if so, how such may be accomplished including provisions for social distancing of workers in the various trades, project inspectors, testing lab personnel, architects, district personnel and all who enter the job site.
Those private sector entities doing work for the LEAs will be due payment for work recently completed and work in progress. It is the obligation of LEAs to provide those payments. As in the Great Recession commencing in 2008, we see school construction in California as a key economic driver that will help our state keep people working as fears of a recession continue to emerge.
These are unprecedented times. CASH Leaders are aware of the challenges faced by our members. We will continue to communicate and offer guidance and assistance throughout this crisis.
Please note that while CASH is optimistic, if the situation in the State deteriorates, it may be necessary to re-consider the continuation of work and the health effects on individuals working on projects.
~Julie Arthur, CASH Chair