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FCPCS recommends that new charter school developers spend at least two years or more to plan their new school. This will allow sufficient time to assemble a good founding team and board of directors, gather information on demographics, define the instructional program, create a sound financial and marketing plan, identify potential school sites, and submit a well-designed charter application.
You can't do it by yourself. Assemble a group of friends, colleagues, other professionals who can serve as your founding team. You will need a team of people who share your vision and passion and who are willing to help you accomplish your goal. This founding team will not necessarily serve as the school's governing board.
With your founding team members, create a written summary that defines how you envision your new charter school. Identify the reasons you want to start a charter school and what you hope to accomplish. In that summary, include detailed answers to the following questions:
This summary will serve as the "executive summary" of your school. It will evolve as you move forward with your plans and eventually become part of the school's official documents, including the charter application, publicity materials, etc.
You will want to acquire a thorough knowledge of charter school development and the geographic area where you plan to establish your school. Allow sufficient time for your team to conduct research on the topics that pertain to your planned school. During this time, learn about the following:
What type of organization will govern your charter school? Learn about the types of non-profit governance structures and decide which one will serve you the best. Decide whether you want to create another non-profit organization that will govern your school.
Identify individuals who will serve on the board of your governing organization. Some of these individuals may be from your founding team. You should identify five or more individuals who are willing to serve on a governing board and who will not receive any compensation or profit from the new charter school. These individuals should be able to lend different types of expertise to the board. Charter schools often have individuals on their board who have expertise in law, accounting, business management, marketing, education and real estate.
Learn how to apply for 501(c)(3) status and how to create articles of incorporation and by-laws for your school.
Your new board of directors and founding team should be ready now to tackle the next steps of charter school planning. This involves developing the details of the school's organization, leadership, academic program, budget projections and location.
Your board should set up a timeline for this process to insure that you have all the necessary elements in place and on time to create a business plan and write your charter application.
The following are just some of the elements to be developed and identified during this stage:
When you are creating your initial budgets, be sure to address these questions within your expenses:
Charter schools, unlike traditional public schools, must find and finance their own school sites. One of the biggest stumbling blocks for charter school developers in Florida is the lack of suitable, affordable facilities. Charter school developers have used extraordinary creativity and resolve in converting a variety of structures into viable charter school facilities.
Charter school developers should enlist the help of a qualified real estate agent, preferably with experience in charter school real estate, to assist them in finding a site at least a year in advance of the school's opening date.
Types of real estate that have been converted into charter schools:
(f) To the extent that charter school facilities are specifically created to mitigate the educational impact created by the development of new residential dwelling units, pursuant to subparagraph (2)(c)4., some of or all of the educational impact fees required to be paid in connection with the new residential dwelling units may be designated instead for the construction of the charter school facilities that will mitigate the student station impact
Building and Fire Code Compliance: Any charter school facility must comply with the Florida Building Code (except for the State Requirements for Educational Facilities) and the Florida Fire Prevention Code, as adopted by the authority in whose jurisdiction the facility is located.
New charter school developers should become familiar with these requirements as early in the process as possible, so that necessary modifications to the selected site can be included in the facilities budget and implemented in a timely fashion. Many charter schools have had to delay their openings due to code compliance issues.
Your team should have all of the information mentioned above in hand before starting the Charter School Application, which is due to your school district sponsor on August 1. Ideally, you should give yourself several months to complete the application. You will want to contact your school district's charter school office several months in advance to learn to inform them of your intent to apply and learn if the office has other resources that could help you in writing your application.
When completing the application, provide as much detailed information as possible under each section. If you cannot complete each section of the application completely and confidently, you may not be ready to move forward with your charter school.