FAQ's for Charter Founders & Administrators

How much space do I need for my school?

A typical charter school should plan to allocate approximately 65-80 square feet per student. Normally, a school’s space will be divided into 2/3 classrooms, and 1/3 office and support areas.

What percentage of my budget should I allot for facility costs?

Although some national guidelines suggest that a school’s facilities expenses should be about 25 percent of total budget, ACD thinks that is too much. ACD implements the 20 percent rule, which means that ACD will not provide a facility with an annual lease payment that exceeds 20 percent of annual gross income. ACD strives to keep costs as low as possible, but we suggest that schools plan for a worst-case scenario (20 percent) in their budgets.

When is the optimal time to get started on a facility project?

This answer depends on several variables, but, as a guideline, for a renovation project, you should plan between 9-12 months; and for new-build projects, you should plan for 15-18 months if possible.

Should I lease or own my facility?

Ultimately, the school will be in the strongest financial position by owning their own facility. However, if the school is at less than 70 percent of projected enrollment, leasing a facility with option to expand will probably be more beneficial in the short term. ACD is well informed and has worked with several schools in phasing their projects to provide a project suited to their needs. If you are a mature school, ACD may have the ability to help you secure alternate financing to purchase the facility as soon as possible.

What kind of amenities should my facility have?

Most schools start out with a long wish list, but ultimately the facility needs to be designed and constructed based on what the school can realistically afford. Classroom and administrative areas are the first priority, followed by any specialized areas, which are critical to the unique needs of your program, and finally to the amenities such as a gym, auditorium, commercial kitchen, etc.

ACD has been through this process dozens of times and has experience working with charter schools through this project. Rest assured that ACD will do everything in its power to keep costs down and provide the school with a functional and affordable facility solution. ACD will tirelessly work to make your project and school a success.

Are their any variables that I should be aware of while working on my project?

One of the most important and largest issue is that of zoning and permitting. This is often one of the biggest hurdles you will face in obtaining a new facility. Depending on where the building is located, its zoning classification, and the local land-use requirements, you will find that the process may be inexpensive and relatively short, or it can be time-consuming and very expensive. In order to obtain the necessary permits for the facility, the project may be required to obtain a special or conditional-use permit, and several other approvals. This process could take as long as 3-8 months to complete. Obviously, ACD works through this process with the school and has much experience with the matter, but it is something to be aware of.

BASIC CHARTER SCHOOL QUESTIONS

What is a charter school?

A charter school is an independent public school that operates independently of the district board of education. In essence, a charter school is a one-school public school district. A group of people — educators, parents, community leaders, educational entrepreneurs or others — formulize a charter plan describing the school’s guiding principles, governance structure, and applicable accountability measures. If the state approves the charter, the state funds the charter on a per pupil basis. In most cases charter schools operate under a clear agreement between the state and the school: increased autonomy in exchange for increased accountability. Because they are schools of choice, they are held to the highest level of accountability — consumer demand.

How do charter schools differ from traditional district public schools?

Charter schools operate on three basic principles:

  • Choice: Charter schools allow families the opportunity to select the school most suitable for their child’s needs. Teachers, as well, choose to work at charter schools, some believe, because they allow for more freedom to innovate in education.
  • Accountability: Charter school development is accountable for how well they educate children in a safe environment, and not for compliance with district or state regulations. Charter schools must adhere to their individual charter contracts, as well as demonstrate that they can perform up to rigorous fiscal and managerial standards. If a charter school cannot perform up to the established standards, it will be closed.
  • Independence: While charter schools must adhere to the same major laws and regulations as all other public schools, they are freed from the traditional bureaucracy and regulations that some feel diverts a school’s energy and resources away from educational excellence. Instead of constantly jumping through procedural hoops, charter school leaders can focus on setting and reaching high academic standards for their students.

Who can start a charter school?

Where State law allows, any parents, community leaders, businesses, teachers, school districts, entrepreneurs, and municipalities can submit a charter application to their authorizing entity.

Do charter schools have admission policies?

Charter schools must implement a fair and open admissions process. They are public schools and cannot discriminate against anyone who would like to attend. Charter schools admit students on a first-come, first-served basis, or by a lottery system when demand for the school requires it. No tuition can be charged.

How are charter schools funded?

Charter schools are public schools. They are funded according to enrollment and receive funding from the state according to the number of students attending the school. In most states, however, charter schools do not receive the full equivalent of their district counterparts. Nationwide, on average, as noted above, charter schools are funded at 61 percent of conventional district schools, which impacts the charter school financing.

How do charter schools impact the public school system?

Charter schools provide healthy competition to conventional district schools to provide equal or better services.

What if a charter school fails?

If a charter school cannot live up to the terms of its charter, it is closed.