School Development Timeline


The school development process can be broken into four phases. Although they are presented in linear order, teams might be working on steps in multiple phases at the same time.

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The School Development Process in Four Phases

The charter school development process can be broken into four phases. This "Starting a Charter School" section is organized to match these phases. Although the phases are presented in linear order, school development teams might be working on steps in multiple phases at the same time.

Opening a new charter school involves many steps. It is critical for your school team to create a clear plan and designate a skilled project manager who has experience in managing multiple tasks and stakeholders simultaneously. This person is key for making sure the team meets deadlines and stays engaged, motivated, and moving forward.

The average team takes a total of 1-3 years to complete the entire process, depending on whether they have an established team and vision at the outset, their authorization environment, and a number of other factors.

This article provides a high-level overview of the tasks and deadlines that are a part of the school development process. Keep in mind that there may be additional tasks that apply to each individual situation with additional deadlines depending on the specific school district and/or county where your school team applies.

Phase 1: Building the Foundation

SDS_P1.jpg (Feature: Small Thumbnail)During the foundations phase, teams focus on building their team, developing a mission and vision, and identifying the big picture structures that will define their school.

Most teams take 3-6 months to complete this phase.

Teams are encouraged to complete the following in Phase 1:

  • Build team, develop mission and vision, and create a work plan
  • Join the California Charter Schools Association as a Developer Member
  • Identify target community and begin community outreach
  • Begin program research
  • Secure nonprofit status
  • Develop a start-up budget and begin fundraising

Phase 2: Petition, Budget, and School Design

SDS_P2.jpg (Feature: Small Thumbnail)During the petition development phase, teams focus on writing and revising their petition and building a relationship with the authorizer (the district, county, or state that will grant your charter). This phase culminates with the submission of the petition.

Most teams take 6-12 months to write their petition.

Teams are encouraged to complete the following in Phase 2:

  • Develop 15+ elements of the petition and develop petition budget. Begin planning for facilities. Begin community engagement and advocacy efforts.
  • CCSA Developer Members may be eligible for a petition review one month in advance of your submission date.
  • Submit your petition.

Note: Submit your petition in advance of state deadlines, local district and/or county deadlines, and with sufficient time to permit appeals and planning. To accommodate appeals, meet grant and Prop. 39 deadlines, and get numbered in time to receive the first apportionment. Teams often find that it is ideal to submit in the spring 1.5 years before they intend to open.

Deadline: Meet Prop. 39 Facilities Requests deadlines. These requests are due November 1 of the year before the school will open.

Phase 3: Authorization

SDS_P3.jpg (Feature: Small Thumbnail)During the authorization phase, the team focuses on securing the approval of their petition through outreach to the community and board members, and if necessary, appeals. This phase culminates with charter school petition authorization.

Most schools take 6-12 months to get authorized.

Teams are encouraged to complete the following in Phase 3:

  • Continue community engagement and authorizer outreach.
  • Prepare for and present at school board meetings. The school board must hold a public hearing within 30 days of charter school petition submission. The school board must make a decision on whether or not to authorize the petition within 60 days of submission. This timeline can be extended by up to 30 days under mutual consent of charter school development team and school board (Education Code 47605). The school board's decision may be appealed to the county within 180 days of a decision. If the petition is denied at the county, the decision may be appealed to the state.

Best practice: Charter school petitions should be approved in early February of the year prior to when the school will open to ensure timely release of funds for fall opening.

Deadline: Petitions must be approved prior to March 15 of the year prior to when the school will open to qualify for Prop. 39 facilities funding.

Phase 4: Start-up

SDS_P4.jpg (Feature: Small Thumbnail)During the start-up phase, the team focuses on getting ready to open their approved charter school. This includes enrollment, preparing facilities, meeting compliance requirements, hiring staff, and beginning to implement the plan for the school.

Teams typically allow themselves 6-12 months for this phase.

Teams are encouraged to complete the following in Phase 4:

  • Complete enrollment and orientation activities.
  • Develop charter school board.
  • Ensure compliance with all federal, state, and local requirements.
  • Establish financial processes and procedures.
  • Hire and onboard staff. Finalize operation and academic plans.
  • Secure tax-exempt status.
  • Hold first day of school.

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