Update on the Public Records Act

Updated 3/25/20

Governor’s Proclamation 20-28 temporarily suspends portions of the Public Records Act (PRA) and Open Public Meetings Act (OPMA — see WSSDA’s update) to help stem the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19). Proclamation 20-28 is in effect from March 24 to midnight, April 23, 2020, unless extended beyond that date. Here are some key takeaways for school board directors:

  • School districts must still respond to PRA requests during the COVID-19 disease outbreak. 
  • The proclamation suspends PRA language requiring districts to provide the public with an option to conduct PRA business at an agency office, in-person, such as in-person inspection of records or in-person submission of PRA requests.
  • The proclamation suspends the PRA requirement that district offices must be open for public inspection and copying of public records for a minimum of 30 hours per week.  Districts must still have their hours posted on their websites.
  • The proclamation suspends the PRA requirement that districts respond to PRA requests within five business days. 

Districts should not provide or arrange for in-person PRA business contacts with the public at district offices.  Instead, school districts should instead use alternative communication methods for PRA business with requestors such as phone, U.S. mail, email, an online portal, or other communication methods that do not require in-person contacts with requestors. 

 If your district has scheduled in-person inspections of records at agency offices during the time the proclamation is in effect, you should immediately contact the requestor and cancel those appointments.  Consider offering other options, such as rescheduling, inquiring if copies, rather than inspection, would be acceptable, inquiring if the requestor wants to withdraw his/her request to inspect records and re-submit it later when business returns to normal. Another option for commonly requested records is to post those records on the district’s website and inform requestors that they can inspect the records there.  

Consider posting these new provisions concerning no in-person PRA business at this time and the reason on your websites.  Also consider distributing this information through other means, such as media releases, social media, or other mechanisms.  Your district should post on its website the methods for the public to contact the Public Records Officer remotely, such as providing the district’s PRA email address. Also consider posting on your website that it may not be able to provide requestors an initial response within five business days and that the proclamation has suspended the five business day time period.