How to Start a School: Applying for Naming and Official Recognition


The creation of a new public school is a very exciting process, but can also be an overwhelming and confusing one. This post will help you navigate the course through some of the most important steps, ensuring that you get as much information as possible.

A new school is an exciting opportunity, especially if it’s the first one you’ve established. But getting your school ready for its first day can be an intimidating process. There are so many things to do and pay attention to! 

One of the most important tasks for any start-up school is signing up with a national non-profit organization that will provide you with legal recognition as a public, private or religious institution based on your state’s law. 

The type of recognition you pursue will have major implications not just for how your organization is structured, but also what kind of benefits it can offer its members down the line.

We’ll start with discussing some of the pre-planning decisions that need to be made, such as determining if this is an elementary or high school and whether it will be public or private. Here at has some more information about applying for naming and official recognition. 

Next we’ll cover where on the property the building will go, how to determine its size and purpose (library? cafeteria? auditorium?), and what to name it (here’s where getting input from stakeholders like teachers and parents is really important).

When you’re ready to apply, we’ll cover the required paperwork and the advice we’ll give you on how to fill it out. We’ll also discuss some of the requests for transcripts and other supporting documents that may be made, as well as what you should do when those requests aren’t honored.

We’ll finish by talking about when you can expect to hear from us, why we have a lot of questions for you and what you can do to help answer them, and whether there is anything else you should know about the process .

What is a school?

A school is an educational institution that provides primary or secondary education to children. This broad definition includes public, private, charter, and home schools. A school can be a standalone institution or an organization within the broader entity of a city’s educational system. However you define it, starting one can be difficult to do well without knowledge and skill in the ins and outs of legal compliance. The good news is that we’ve compiled three steps below to this complicated process for you!

Step 1.Research the Education Code.

The first thing you’ll need to do is research your state’s education code for any legal details relating to schools. You’ll also want to research the current governing bodies that oversee the charter system in your area. 

For example, if you live in California, it’s likely that you live in LA Unified School District (LAUSD), which requires all of its schools to be run by charters. If you live in Chicago Public Schools (CPS), there are many different charter districts around the city like University of Chicago Lab Schools (UChicagoLSC) and Ada S. McKinley Charter High School (AMCHS).

Step 2.Find a district charter office.

The easiest way to find a district charter office is to visit your state’s website and find the contact information for your local school district. You can also Google terms such as “charter schools in  or “charters of .”

Look for an Office of Charter Schools, School Choice, Charter Management Organization (CMO), or Office of Innovation. It’s likely that this will be your first stop and where you can apply and begin the process of becoming a fully certified school. From here on out, we’ll refer to this office as “the charter office.”

Step 3.Apply to the charter office.

The charter office will have a specific process for becoming recognized as a school, with paperwork that you’ll be required to submit before approval. 

The application process for each state is different, but they are mostly similar. You’ll likely need to submit an application form requesting recognition of your school, along with the following documents:

Step 4.Wait for approval.

The charter office process will likely take a while, so you’ll need to be patient. It’s a good idea to have someone who has experience with the process on your side to help you navigate through any road blocks along the way.

Step 5.Complete the paperwork.

Once the application is approved, your very first step should be signing up for a charter school accreditation from either AdvancED or NAIS . Both organizations have been around since 2001 and perform an annual self-assessment of their own schools around the country to ensure they are in compliance with state law and other regulatory bodies like LAUSD or CPS.


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