Crowell & Moring’s cross-disciplinary Education practice is addressing a broad range of issues stemming from the COVID-19 crisis. Universities are facing class action law suits for tuition and fee refunds, due to COVID-19 closings and moving instruction online. Academic institutions that transitioned from cancellations to closures are now facing new pressures and challenges related to “reopening” measures adopted by the various jurisdictions. Safety measures, including testing, monitoring and other pandemic preparedness plans and how to best manage employees’ concerns about returning to work and related health concerns regarding returning to campus are just a few of the challenges facing schools at every level of the education spectrum.  We are helping our clients in the education field anticipate and address these important issues in real-time so they can continue to execute on their important missions.

Other developments our lawyers are anticipating include “around the corner” issues, such as:

  • Employee benefit plan disputes: These may include class actions regarding administration of ERISA plans. Such disputes could involve health insurance eligibility, COBRA, and 401k plans.
  • “Re-opening” orders: Schools will need to pivot from interpreting the various state and local government “stay at home” orders to addressing issues of how to re-open. Administrators need to determine who returns to campus, when, and how. Every employer considering a return to work in the short term, must confront complicated questions regarding employee screening and testing, which are rooted in guidance from the response of public health agencies to epidemiological data about the pandemic. Similar questions will, of course, arise with regard to returning students.
  • Third-party disputes:  These can arise out of any third-party agreements for services. For example, network security and cleaning crew access may be critical to the business. If a third-party service provider cannot perform these services, it may be difficult to contract with an alternative service provider.

Current Education COVID-19 Representative Matters Include:

  • Advising major public university on the extent of their scope and authority to take emergency measures in response to the outbreak.
  • Advising public university system regarding issues to be addressed in reopening campus.
  • Advising a university in the Mid-Atlantic region regarding potential coronavirus cases and how they should best be handled.
  • Advising a major university system on COVID-19 matters and the impact of cancellations and closures.
  • Advising a private school cluster on the impact of a state emergency declaration on cancellation and tuition reimbursement matters.
  • Advising an independent school regarding standards for teletherapy with students following mandatory school closure.
  • Advising educational institutions regarding the various CARES stimulus funding available.
  • Advising an institution regarding risk mitigation measures with respect to tuition and fee refund suits.