To open a conventional K-12 private school in North Carolina, a notice of intent to operate must be sent to the state that includes the name and address of the school and the name of its owner and chief administrator, according to the N.C. Department of Administration.
Private schools must also:
- Maintain annual attendance and disease immunization records for every student enrolled and that regularly attends classes.
- Receive fire, health and safety inspections from state, county and municipal authorities as required by law.
- Provide to the parents or guardians of students that receive scholarship grant money an annual written explanation of the students’ progress, including the student's scores on standardized tests.
- Provide to the State Education Assistance Authority graduation rates of the students that receive scholarship grants in a manner consistent with nationally recognized standards.
- Administer, a national standardized test to all students enrolled in grades three, six, nine and 11. The tests must measure achievement in English grammar, reading, spelling and mathematics. Each school is required to make and maintain records of the results.
Tests for 11th-graders must measure verbal and quantitative competencies. A minimum score must be met to graduate high school.
Private schools aren’t required to use Public Schools of North Carolina curriculum.
Opening a private school in North Carolina is not only a good business proposition, it also offers an opportunity to provide an individualized curriculum that benefits children, parents and teachers. It may sound daunting, but the benefits of providing children with a good education and facilitating a better interaction between parents and teachers outweighs the challenges of opening a private school. A private school can be a religious school, a not-for-profit school or a non-denominational business.
Privates schools in North Carolina are governed by the North Carolina General Statutes Article 39, Chapter 115 C. All private schools must conform to the Constitution of the United States and of North Carolina. The statutes specify the attendance, health and safety regulations and standardized testing requirements. All private schools that adhere to these are not subject to other educational provisions other than meeting the requirements for fire safety, sanitation and immunization. (See References 1 and 2)
Draw up a business plan. The business plan should detail the reason behind starting the school, what type of school it will be, whether through grade school or high school, its objectives, how to meet these objectives and the number of students the school is taking in for the first year. It should include the projected start-up budget and profit and identify the source of funding and how to secure the funds.
Find a location. Research the area prior to choosing the location for the school. Find out how read this article are of school age and if there are other private schools in the area. Check out their reputation and know what their strengths and weaknesses are. This will give you an idea if your plan to open a private school in that location is viable.
Secure funding for the school. You can secure funds by applying for a bank loan or by bringing investors in. If you are personally funding the initial expenses for starting a school, ensure that you have the funds to cover your projected budget and extra funds to cover overspending.
Meeting Statutory Requirements
Call the local building inspector's office for a building inspection. All classes, up to and including second grade, are required to be on the ground floor. The North Carolina statutes do not require a non-public school to pass the building inspection before classes begin, but it is highly recommended that all inspections are successfully completed for the protection of the students, teachers and governing body. The statutes do not detail the type of building that can be used or the location. (See References 1 and 2)
Request a fire inspection from the local Fire Marshal's Office. A fire inspector will check that the building meets fire safety requirements. Using the North Carolina Non-Public School Fire Inspection Preparation Checklist as your guide, get the building ready for fire inspection. Make sure that you remove any fire hazards and check that all fire detection equipment is installed. (See Reference 1)
Using the North Carolina Non-Public School Sanitation Inspection Preparation Checklist, get the building ready for a school sanitation inspection. Ensure that you have a clean water supply and waste disposal units. Toilets should be functioning and dressing rooms in good order. (See Reference 1)
Request an "initial courtesy inspection" from the county Health Department's School Sanitation. The sanitation officer will conduct the initial "walk through" and will issue the administrator with an Inspection of School Form that is partially completed. The sanitation inspector will come back at a later date unannounced and grade each item on the official form. (See Reference 1)
Fill in a "Notice of Intent to Operate a School Form" and send it to the Division of Non-Public Education (DNPE). The Notice of Intent reports the name of the school, its address and the names of its chief administrator and owner(s). Send a copy of the Initial Courtesy Inspection Form with this. (See Reference 1)
Establish a hiring committee and set the criteria for hiring. Ensure that the committee understands the needs and objectives of the school. Choosing the right personnel for the school is a key to the success of the school. (See Reference 4)
Set your hiring process and publish your staff requirements. Alternatively, you can use an employment agency that is experienced in hiring highly qualified teaching staff.
Hire a principal with strong leadership qualities. Principals are in charge of the daily running of the schools and managing the teaching staff. They ensure that the schools meet their objectives and expectations. Schools with good leaders perform better. (See Reference 3)
Hire highly qualified teachers for core subjects, such as English, Mathematics, Science, Foreign Languages and Social Studies. Highly qualified teachers will hold a Bachelor's Degree or above. They will have a license issued by the state after passing rigorous tests. Teachers should also be competent in the core subjects they are teaching. It is very important that your teachers are highly qualified, but it is also important that they are effective in a classroom environment. (See Reference 4)
Hire a guidance counsellor and a school nurse. They will assist in the physical and mental development of the students.
Writing a Curriculum
Prepare the curriculum. With the help of the new staff, plan the school curriculum. Set the goals that the students should achieve at the end of every school year. The core subjects to include in the curriculum are Mathematics, English language, Reading and Spelling.
Establish a minimum grade for graduation. North Carolina General Statutes 115C-550 and 115C-558 state that private schools should have a minimum grade that the students must attain before they can graduate. The Division of Non-Public Education recommends that new private schools set a minimum grade equivalent or higher than that of the public school but lower than desired. This should be revisited five years later. (See Reference 2)
Define the strategies and support that the school will provide to students to achieve the overall goals of the school. This gives the teaching staff knowledge of what they need to implement to ensure the success of the school and the students.
Identify the tools you need for measuring the achievement of every student. This can include weekly or quarterly tests, report projects, coursework or class participation. Prepare a set of standards that you will use as a baseline to compare the students' achievements.
Elementary schools, vocational schools and universities will have audits conducted to examine records concerning management, regulations, finances, curriculum and corrective actions. Whether the school district conducts a self-audit or the state's Bureau of School Audits provide auditors to perform assessments, an efficient audit checklist will provide a means to evaluate weaknesses and improve school operations.
A school audit checklist contains management processes that are evaluated for efficiency of school resources and practices. Auditors will check for quality decision-making, policy-making, communication procedures and work environments. An auditor evaluates current conditions and whether they are within accepted practices. The auditor will also outline problems and discuss improvement opportunities.
Performance and Program Audits
Auditors perform economy and efficiency audits to examine if the school is operating economically. The auditor will note any inefficiencies in practices for the overall school system. The school audit checklist will also require evaluations concerning the compliance of required laws and regulations concerning school programs and budgets.
A school audit checklist involves the evaluation of all financial statements to determine if school districts have received state subsidies and reimbursements. It also includes an assessment of how the state funding was spent. Auditors ask for all financial statements including statements of net assets, revenue, expenses and changes in fund net assets. The auditor will check if internal controls for financial budgets were complied with, whether any corrective action plans concerning prior audit findings were implemented and what progress has been made thereof.
Auditors evaluate a school's curriculum to measure the integrity of individual programs and classrooms. Assessments involve verifying the credentials of teachers and principals to ensure that the most qualified staff works with students. An auditor checklist will review the design and delivery of taught curriculum and focus on procedures that may be better defined and implemented.
Accreditation, Registration, Licensing, and Approval
- Accreditation is optional.
- Qualified nonpublic schools shall have one or more of the following characteristics: 1) accredited by the State Board of Education; 2) accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools; 3) active members of the North Carolina Association of Independent Schools; and/or 4) schools that receive no funding from the state of North Carolina. N.C. Gen. Stat. §115C-555.
- The State Board of Education ceased accrediting schools on June 30, 2000. All school accreditation is now done by accrediting organizations which are independent of direct governmental control.
- Registration is mandatory.
- A new school must send to a duly authorized representative of the state of North Carolina a notice of intent to operate, name and address of the school, and name of the school's owner and chief administrator. Similarly, a school that is closing must notify a duly authorized representative of the state of North Carolina upon termination of the school. N.C. Gen. Stat. §§115C-552, 553 and N.C. Gen. Stat. §115C-560, 561.
- Licensing has no requirements.
- Approval is optional.
- Private church schools or schools of religious charter and qualifying nonpublic schools that comply with the provisions of N.C. Gen. Stat. §§115C-547 through 562 are not subject to any other educational provisions except requirements regarding fire, safety, sanitation and immunization. N.C. Gen. Stat. §§115C-554, 562. (Although N.C. Gen. Stat. §115C-378 refers to "approved nonpublic schools," according to the North Carolina Department of Education, in practice, nonpublic schools are no longer approved by the Department.) No approval of a nonpublic school has taken place since 1979. In May of 1979, the North Carolina General Assembly transferred legal oversight of nonpublic schools from the State Board of Education and the N.C. Department of Public Instruction to the Office of the Governor.
- Teacher certification is not required of nonpublic schools.
Length of School Year and Days
- Children in North Carolina may attend private church schools or schools of religious charter under N.C. Gen. Stat. §115C-547 et seq., or nonpublic schools that qualify under N.C. Gen. Stat. §115C-555 et seq. Delconte v. State, 329 S.E.2d 636 (1985).
- Attendance at a private church school or school of religious charter satisfies the compulsory school attendance requirements provided the school operates on a regular schedule, excluding reasonable holidays and vacations, during at least nine calendar months of the year. N.C. Gen. Stat. §115C-548.
- Attendance at a qualified nonpublic school satisfies the compulsory school attendance requirements provided the school operates on a regular schedule, excluding reasonable holidays and vacations, during at least nine calendar months of the year. N.C. Gen. Stat. §115C-556.
- To satisfy the compulsory attendance statute, attendance at an approved nonpublic school must be for a period equal to the time the local public school is in session. The state's private school attendance statute defines this as "a school term of at least nine calendar months on a regular schedule excluding reasonable holidays and vacations." North Carolina's Division of Non-Public Education, within the North Carolina Department of Administration, advises that the school term have at least 180 instructional days per year with typical school days of at least five and one-half hours in length and typical class periods of 50 minutes for grades nine through twelve. N.C. Gen. Stat. §115C-378 and N.C. Gen. Stat. § 115C 548.
- Private school students may enroll in driver education programs offered by the state superintendent of public instruction at local public high schools. N.C. Gen. Stat. §20-88.1.
- There are no curriculum requirements for nonpublic schools; however, nationally standardized testing in certain subject areas is mandated. N.C. Gen. Stat. §115C- 549 and Gen. Stat. §115C-557. See Testing.
Recordkeeping and Reports
- Private church schools or schools of religious charter and qualifying nonpublic schools must make and maintain annual attendance and disease immunization records for each student. N.C. Gen. Stat. §§115C-548, 556.
- Private church schools or schools of religious charter and qualifying nonpublic schools must make and maintain student nationally standardized test result records every year for each student enrolled in grades three, six, nine, and eleven for at least one year and make them available for annual inspection in the school's office by the duly authorized representative of the state of North Carolina. N.C. Gen. Stat. §§115C-549, 550, 557 and 558.
- Qualified nonpublic schools must send a notice of intent to operate, the name and address of the school, and the name of the school's owner and chief administrator to the duly authorized representative of the state designated by the governor. N.C. Gen. Stat. § 115C-560(a), 561.
- Qualified nonpublic schools that comply with the requirements under N.C. Gen. Stat. §115C-555 et seq., are not subject to any other educational provision except requirements respecting fire, safety, sanitation and immunization. N.C. Gen. Stat. §115C-562.
- When private church schools and schools of religious charter terminate operation, the schools must also notify the state's designated representative. N.C. Gen. Stat. §115C-560(b), 561.
- Private church schools or schools of religious charter must send a notice of intent to operate, the name and address of the school, and the name of the school's owner and chief administrator to the duly authorized representative of the state designated by the governor. N.C. Gen. Stat. §§115C-552(a), 553.
- Private schools operated by any church or other organized religious group that complies with the requirements under N.C. Gen. Stat. §115C-547 et seq. are not subject to any other educational provision except requirements respecting fire, safety, sanitation, and immunization. N.C. Gen. Stat. §115C-554.
- When qualified nonpublic schools terminate operation, the schools must also notify the state's designated representative. N.C. Gen. Stat. §115C-552(b), 553.
- Information acquired by a certified private school counselor through student counseling is privileged unless the student waives the privilege or a judge compels disclosure. N.C. Gen. Stat. §8-53.4.
Health and Safety Requirements
- Private church schools or schools of religious charter and qualifying nonpublic schools are subject to the state requirements respecting fire, safety, sanitation, and immunization. N.C. Gen. Stat. §115C-554, 562.
- No child may attend a K–12 private or religious school unless a certificate of immunization is presented to the school or the child has received a medical or religious exemption. If a certification of immunization is not presented on the first day of classes, the principal must present a notice of deficiency to the parent or guardian. The parent or guardian has 30 days from the first day of the child's attendance in school to obtain the required immunizations and additional days if needed upon certification of a physician. Upon termination of the 30 days or the extended period, the principal shall not permit the child to attend the school unless the child has been immunized or has obtained the necessary exemption. N.C. Gen. Stat. §§130A-155, 156, 157.
- Children entering kindergarten in private church schools, schools of religious charter, or qualified nonpublic schools are exempt from the state's statutory requirement for health assessments. Note: Kindergarten students enrolled in approved nonpublic schools must receive a health assessment prior to admission. The assessment must include a medical history and physical examination with screening for vision and hearing, and if appropriate, testing for anemia and tuberculosis. N.C. Gen. Stat. §130A-440.
- Private church schools or schools of religious charter and qualifying nonpublic schools are subject to reasonable fire, health, and safety inspections by state, county, and municipal authorities as required by law. N.C. Gen. Stat. §§115C-548, 554, 556, 562.
- Private schools must conduct at least one fire drill every month during the regular school session in each building where children are assembled. The commissioner of insurance, the superintendent of public instruction, and the State Board of Education are under a duty to provide printed instructions for properly conducting fire drills. Oct. 9 of every year is set aside as Fire Prevention Day. N.C. Gen. Stat. §§58-79-35.
- Private schools must provide eye protective devices free of charge to students and teachers participating in shop or laboratory classes involving hazardous materials as defined by statute. Students and teachers are required to wear the devices at all times when participating in such a program. N.C. Gen. Stat. §115C-166.
- The Board of Transportation or local authorities may set lower speed limits for areas adjacent to private or parochial schools to be enforced on days when schools are in session. N.C. Gen. Stat. §20-141.1
- The North Carolina Department of Justice may provide a criminal record check to nonpublic school employers for school employees and/or applicants if the individual consents to a record check. The department will charge a reasonable fee not to exceed the actual cost of locating, editing, researching, and retrieving the information. N.C. Gen. Stat. §§114-19.2(b), (c).
- Any person who wantonly and willfully sets fire to a private school or attempts to set fire to a private school commits a felony. N.C. Gen. Stat. §§14-60, 67.
- It is illegal to carry any gun, rifle, pistol, dynamite cartridge, bomb, grenade, mine, powerful explosive, bowie knife, dirk, dagger, slingshot, leaded cane, switch-blade knife, blackjack, metallic knuckles, or any other weapon of like kind on private school property unless for instructional or sanctioned ceremonial purposes. N.C. Gen. Stat. §14-269.2.
- North Carolina's criminal law makes it a misdemeanor to engage in disorderly conduct by disrupting the teaching of students at any private educational institution. N.C. Gen. Stat. §14-288.4.
- Students with special needs may be transported by public school buses to and from the nearest appropriate private school having a special education program approved by the State Board of Education if the child is publicly placed by the state or local school administrative unit. N.C. Gen. Stat. §115c-242(1). See Special Education, below.
- State law authorizes the State Board of Education or any other state agency to provide instructional materials, including library resources and textbooks, purchased with federal funding of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 for the use of children and teachers in private elementary and secondary schools as required by acts of Congress. N.C. Gen. Stat. §115C-409(b).
- Private church schools or schools of religious charter, and other qualified nonpublic schools must administer a nationally standardized test to students in grades three, six, and nine at least once each school year. The test must measure achievement in English grammar, reading, spelling, and mathematics. The results of the test must be made available for one year after the testing for inspection by an authorized representative of the state of North Carolina. N.C. Gen. Stat. §§115C-549, 553, 557, 174.
- Private church schools or schools of religious charter, and other qualified nonpublic schools must administer a nationally standardized test to students in grade eleven to measure competencies in the verbal and quantitative areas. The school must establish a minimum score for graduation. Test results must be made available for one year after the testing for inspection by an authorized representative of the state of North Carolina. N.C. Gen. Stat. §§115C-550, 558, 174.
- Private church schools or schools of religious charter, and other qualified nonpublic schools may participate voluntarily in high school competency testing and statewide testing programs at the school's expense. However, since the standardized tests used by the Public Schools of North Carolina are state standardized (rather than nationally standardized), they do not satisfy the annual nationally standardized testing requirement for nonpublic schools. N.C. Gen. Stat. §§115C-551, 559.
- The State Board of Education may use tests to assure that graduates of nonpublic schools supervised by the State Board of Education possess the skills and knowledge necessary to function independently and successfully in assuming the responsibilities of citizenship. N.C. Gen. Stat. §115C-174.11(b). However, no nonpublic schools have been supervised by the State Board of Education since 1979. See Approval under Accreditation, Registration, Licensing, and Approval, above.
- A North Carolina local education agency may place a student requiring special education in a private school having a special education program approved by the State Board of Education without cost to the parents. The private schools must meet standards that apply to state and local education agencies and secure the rights the students would have if served by the state or local education agency. N.C. Gen. Stat. §115C-111.2. See Transportation, above.
Nursing and Health
- There is no state policy at this time.
- There is no state policy at this time.
- There is no state policy at this time.
Reimbursement for Performing State and Local Functions
- There is no state policy at this time.
- The North Carolina Constitution provides that the General Assembly may exempt property held for educational purposes from state and local taxation. N.C. Const. Art. V, Sec. 2.
- Foods sold not for profit by private school cafeterias within school buildings during the regular school day are exempt from state retail sales tax. N.C. Gen. Stat. §105-164.13(26).
Public Aid for Private Education
- Constitutional Provisions: The North Carolina Constitution provides that the state school fund and the county school funds must be faithfully appropriated and used exclusively for free public schools. N.C. Const. Art. IX, Sec. 6, 7.
- Program for State Tax Credit for Special Education Expenses: Enacted in 2011, this tax credit provides a tax credit for up to $3,000 per semester per child. Initial eligibility is restricted to children who were part of an individualized education program (IEP) and enrolled at least the preceding two semesters at a public school. Beginning in 2016, this initial eligibility is reduced to one semester. Expenses must be documented. Continuing eligibility depends on a new special education evaluation by the school district every three years. N.C. Gen. Stat. §105-151.33.
- "A 'home school' means a nonpublic school in which one or more children of not more than two families or households receive academic instruction from parents or legal guardians, or a member of either household." N.C. Gen. Stat. §115C-563.
Initial and Renewal Applications
- Any new home school must send a notice of intent to operate to a duly authorized representative of the state of North Carolina. This "duly authorized representative" is defined by law as the Director of the Division of Non-Public Education. Notice must be provided when the home school is terminated. N.C. Gen. Stat. §§115C-552(b); 560(b), 563(b).
- Home schools elect to operate as either a private church school or school of religious charter, or a qualified nonpublic school and must then meet the requirements for that type of school. N.C. Gen. Stat. §115C-547 through §115C-554 or §115C-547 through §115C-562.
- Building inspections are waived though if the school meets in a private residence. N.C. Gen. Stat. §115C-564.
Curriculum and Instruction
- The person providing instruction in the homeschool must hold at least a high school diploma or its equivalent. N.C. Gen. Stat. §115C-564.
- A home school must operate for a nine calendar month school term. N.C. Gen. Stat. §§115C-548, 556.
- Nonpublic school students have access to Learn and Earn On-Line courses by directly registering through the established higher education organization's course registration process.
Assessment and Diplomas
- Any new school may, on a voluntary basis, participate in any state-operated or -sponsored program that would otherwise be available to such school, including but not limited to the high school competency testing and statewide testing programs. However, since the standardized tests used by the Public Schools of North Carolina are state standardized (rather than nationally standardized), they do not satisfy the annual nationally standardized testing requirement for homeschools. N.C. Gen. Stat. §§115C-551; 559.
- Students attending a home school must be tested academically once each year through a nationally standardized test or other nationally standardized equivalent measurement. The test must measure achievement in English grammar, reading, spelling, and mathematics for students and verbal and quantitative areas for grade 11 students. N.C. Gen. Stat. §§115C-174, 550, 558, 563(a), 564.
- Home schools that comply with the requirements under N.C. Gen. Stat. §115C-563 et seq. are not subject to any other educational provision except requirements respecting immunization. N.C. Gen. Stat. §115C-565.
- Home schools must maintain records to ensure that students are immunized. N.C. Gen. Stat. §§115C-548; 556.
Special Education Tax Credit
- Enacted in 2011, this tax credit provides a tax credit for up to $3,000 per semester per child. Initial eligibility is restricted to children who were part of an individualized education program (IEP) and enrolled at least the preceding two semesters at a public school. Beginning in 2016, this initial eligibility is reduced to one semester. The tax credit can be claimed for special education and related service expenses for a child who is homeschooled. Expenses must be documented. Continuing eligibility depends on a new special education evaluation by the school district every three years. N.C. Gen. Stat. §105-151.33.
Public School Access
- The North Carolina Virtual Public School (NCVPS) "shall be available at no cost to all students in North Carolina who are enrolled in North Carolina's public schools …. The Department of Public Instruction shall communicate to local school administrative units all applicable guidelines regarding the enrollment of nonpublic school students in these courses." Given permission by the local school board, homeschooled students may enroll in NCVPS online courses. The local school board shall collect fees for such enrollments. North Carolina General Assembly, Section 7.20(d).