Charter schools are typically started under the guidance of a particular school district and fall within the realm of school management. In most cases, charter schools are added to the existing roster of schools within a district and may focus on reaching children who are performing at or below state curriculum standards. The planning and implementation can take several months, and even years, before the school is actually ready to open its doors to students.
Here are some detailed steps for how to start a charter school:
- Develop a Vision-In order to start a charter school, a clear vision or mission statement must be developed. While of course this vision must have the education of children at its heart, it must also give a clear view of what faculty, staff, parents and the community can expect once it begins operating. This vision should also provide a basis for decision-making within the district.
- Charter Applicant Expertise-Because charter schools branch out from the traditional school environment, high expectations of expertise must be required by all involved. Not only should these expectations be satisfied on a personal level, but they must also fulfill any and all state regulations, laws and requirements. This expertise must be applied to the superintendent, school board members, administration, faculty and staff.
- Develop a Committee-Those who carry the charter school vision must be able to communicate that vision to a development committee that can effectively implement and carry out ideas and beliefs. The committee should represent a cross-section of everyone involved in the creation of a charter school, including the state department, local school district officials, administration, faculty, politicians, concerned citizens, parents and even students; all of whom play a part in the school management system. This group should be willing to meet many times over a set period as the process of the charter school continues.
- Create Policies-Once a committee has been established, policies should be created that will govern topics, such as building and maintenance, safety issues, hiring and maintaining staff, discipline and enrollment. Members should look at several other charter school policies before developing their own policies. These policies may need to be reevaluated at the end of the first year that the school is open.
- Search for School Funding-Committee members should also address ways to fund the expenses of a charter school. A subcommittee may be formed and charged to search for alternative funding outside of the local school district's budget, such as federal grant monies that may be available through their state education department or from the federal government. The committee may also need to explore low-interest loan and private corporation funding options as well. Deadlines and application instructions must be strictly adhered to by the applicants.
- Handle Special Issues- In some cases, a charter school may be created through the conversion of an existing school. In this instance, an administration, faculty and staff may already be in place, and careful guidance and leadership must be conducted to make the transition from a traditional public school to a charter school a smooth one. The support of the faculty and staff is essential at this time as well, and communication must remain open among all parties involved.
Starting a charter school will take time and money, but if dedicated and concerned committees are formed and policies are developed, the facilityl should be able to enjoy a relatively smooth start. There will always be some changes that need to be made as the school grows, but good communication and organization are the keys to a successful charter school beginning.