How To Start a New K-12 Private School

Learn the 13 Steps to Starting your Own School

K-12 kids
There no cut-and-dried sequence to developing your private school. Provided in this article is a 13-step process to open your private school based on our years of experience developing private K-12 schools around the world. However, you need to remember that there is no one way in starting your own school, but there are a set of milestones you need to cover when starting your school, including:

Step 1

Develop the Purpose and Direction of your School:

Determine the type of school your community needs and will support, as well as what you want you as parents want (e.g., K-7, 8-12, day, boarding, single gender, IB, Montessori, Preparatory). This will include your mission/vision statements, core values, and educational philosophy. Ask parents and community leaders for their opinions.

Step 2

Form a committee:

Form a small working committee of capable, dedicated cohorts to set in motion the critical work you need to complete. Include parents and highly respected community stakeholders with financial, legal, management, and building experience to support the process. Ask for and get a commitment from each member as this is important work that’ll demand much of each member's time and energy.

Step 3

File papers:

File incorporation papers with the appropriate Province or State agency. The lawyer on your Steering Committee should be deal with this. By establishing incorporation, it will limit liability in the case of lawsuits, present a stable image, extend the life of the school beyond the founders, and provide an insurable entity for the school. A 3rd party lawyer should always be consulted.

Step 4

Complete a Feasibility Study and Business Plan:

This will be your blue print of how the school is going to operate over its first five years. This is your chance to lay out, step-by-step, the process for the sequential development of the school. You will determine the enrollment and financial projections, and prioritize the staffing, programs, facilities, in a methodical, measurable fashion, and the start-up costs and budget.

Step 5

Develop a five-year budget based on the demand of the Feasibility Plan:

This is a comprehensive review of the projected revenues (AR) and expenses (AP). The financial person(s) on your Steering Committee should take responsibility for developing this important plan. As always project your assumptions conservatively and factor in a contingency should the financial reality change from the projections. You should also map out the school’s bookkeeping procedures (e.g., record keeping, check signing, disbursements, petty cash, bank accounts, record keeping, reconciling bank accounts, audit committee) and accounting cycles.

Step 6


You need to plan your fundraising case and campaign carefully so that you build momentum yet are able to keep pace with actual funding needs. Your business plan is important at this stage as it provides potential donors concrete evidence of your vision and where the donor can fit it. Of course, it will also drive your enrollment as parent’s see how their child fits in.

Step 7

Locate a facility:

Locate a facility to accommodate the school (purchase or rent) or develop a building master plan if you will be building your own facility from the ground up. The Building Committee member(s) should spearhead this assignment. Check requirements of local social and health services, building and zoning, health record-keeping, class size, food service, fire code, building code, and teacher-student ratios, etc. You should also take into consideration the learning resources, furniture, computers, etc. needed for start-up. In addition, you will need to begin thinking about the outdoor environment and natural habitat. Rental space for the classroom is frequently obtained from schools, churches, park buildings, community centers, apartment complexes, private school buildings, nursery schools, and estate mansions.

Step 8


Through a search process you select your Head of School and your Business Manager (or sub-contract a local accountant to deal with AP / AR). Conduct your search as widely as possible. Write job descriptions, benefits, and pay scales for your staff and subsequent faculty and administrative positions. You will be looking for self-starters who enjoy building something from scratch. Your Head will drive the enrollment campaign, marketing and promotions, and the initial decisions of classroom-based resources and staffing.

Step 9


At this stage you need to begin to aggressively market for students. Members of the Steering Committee and Head need to devise a Marketing Plan to promote the new school. This may include: public meetings, newspaper ads and inserts, mail drops, radio, community TV, and coffee sessions. You will also need to design your brochure, communication materials (e.g., business cards, letterhead), web site, and set up a mailing list to keep interested parents and donors in touch with your progress.

Step 10

Open Your Doors:

Open the school office and phones, and have the Head of School begin admissions interviews and tours of your facilities. Acquire insurance protection against business interruption, liability, boiler malfunction, building casualties, etc.

Support Staff: 

It’s critical to attract capable faculty; in the end it’s the staff that’ll make or break the school – reputations can be formed so quickly in a new school environment. To attract great staff you need to ensure that they buy into the vision and have a competitive compensation package. Also, you need to develop the Staff Handbook, contracts, and structure for personnel files. While it’s still a year from the school opening, line up as many faculty and senior leadership positions as you can.

Train Faculty: 

Have faculty in place and get your school ready for opening. The first year at a new school requires endless meetings and planning sessions for the academic staff. Get your teachers on the job no later than August 1 in order to be prepared for opening day.

Opening Day: 

Welcome your students and parents! Begin your traditions. Explore membership in national, provincial, and state private school associations! Start off with a bang. Have dignitaries there to cut the ribbon, have a family BBQ; make it special.

I hope that this article will be of assistance to you and your steering committee. To find out more about our firm’s school formation services, or learn more about how we can help provide you solutions, please email HEG at to discuss your needs in more detail or visit our web site at

Doug Halladay


Halladay Education Group


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