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Italy: Decree Laws on Conclusion of School Year and Elections amid COVID-19 Pandemic Issued

(May 20, 2020) In April 2020, two decree laws entered into effect in Italy to regulate educational and electoral affairs that had been disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Decree Law No. 22 of April 8, 2020 (D.L. No. 22) on the conclusion of the 2019/2020 school year and state examinations in Italy entered into effect on April 9, while Decree Law No. 26 of April 20, 2020 (D.L. No. 26) on elections for the year 2020 entered into effect on April 21. (Decreto-Legge 8 aprile 2020, n. 22 Misure Urgenti sulla Regolare Conclusione e l’Ordinato Avvio dell’Anno Scolastico e sullo Svolgimento degli Esami di Stato; Decreto-Legge 20 aprile 2020, n. 26 Disposizioni Urgenti in materia di Consultazioni Elettorali per l’Anno 2020.)

Conclusion of the School Year 2020 and State Examinations

D.L. No. 22 states that the Ministry of Education must adopt specific measures for rescheduling and administering state examinations and assessing students relative to the 2019/2020 school year, as well as define the methods for the “integration and recovery” (integrazione e recupero) of classes during the school year starting September 1, 2020. (Art. 1(1), (2).)

The decree law also addressed the possibility that in-person examinations would be allowed if educational activities were resumed nationally by May 18, 2020. In that case, the Ministry was directed to issue regulations addressing the requirements for admission to the next grade level for secondary schools, the constitution and appointment of examining commissions, and the administration of state final exams. (Art. 1(3)(a), (c) & (d).) However, because educational activities were not resumed nationally by May 18, 2020, and in-person exams cannot yet be administered for public health reasons, the decree law provides that in this situation the Ministry must now regulate the means for the final evaluation of students, including the use of remote communications methods, the replacement of the state final exam with an alternative final evaluation, and the replacement of written tests with a single interview, all while guaranteeing the completeness and fairness of the evaluations. (Art. 1(4)(a)–(c).)

D.L. No. 22 eliminates certain requirements for admitting candidates to state exams and mandates that educational authorities evaluating students consider experience gained through “transversal competencies” (competenze trasversali). Additionally, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation may issue specific provisions to adapt the applicable regulations to the needs of Italian educational institutions operating abroad that have been affected by the pandemic. (Art. 1(6), (8).)

To contain the spread of COVID-19 during the epidemiological emergency, teaching staff must provide remote instruction to their students, using available IT or other technological tools, including telephone and telematic connections. (Art. 2(3).)

Other Provisions Related to Academic Year 2019/2020

During the state of emergency, the government may issue new provisions for the recognition of professional qualifications of state exam candidates to engage in regulated professions during 2020, including dentistry, pharmacy, veterinary medicine, food technology, certified accounting, and legal auditing. (Art. 6(1).)

Professional internships suspended due to the epidemiological emergency are to be considered as successfully concluded even if the intern has not attended the minimum number of sessions required by regulations. (Art. 6(3).)

D.L. No. 22 also provides for measures to ensure the continuity of the functioning of universities and other higher-level institutions of learning during the pandemic that include the suspension of elections of their governing bodies and the determination of appropriate replacements in cases where the governing bodies cannot carry out their functions. (Art. 7(1).)

Postponement of Elections

D.L. No. 26 provides that the deadline for holding supplementary elections for the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate of the Republic for seats declared vacant by July 31, 2020, is 240 days from the date the Election Committee announces the vacancy. (D.L. No. 26, art. 1(1)(a).)

Special provisions are also made for holding the ordinary annual elections of the municipal and district councils for 2020 between September 15 and December 15. Likewise, elections in municipalities for governing bodies that must be held for reasons other than the expiration of their mandates must occur before July 27, 2020.