Charter School FAQ

Disclaimer: This Frequently Asked Questions document is prepared by the DPI Office of Charter Schools

  • Accreditation – How are charter schools accredited?

    Charter schools are not required to be accredited, but may elect to become accredited. Accreditation is a process performed by special outside private associations. Charter schools are approved by the State Board of Education to open and operate a public school.

  • Additional School Services – Is a charter school required to provide transportation?

    The charter school may provide transportation for students enrolled at the school, but is not required to. The charter school must, however, develop a transportation plan so that transportation is not a barrier to any student who resides in the local school district in which the school is located. The charter school is not required to provide transportation to any student who lives within one and one-half miles of the school. Charter schools must provide transportation to students who enroll and have transportation on their IEP as a “related service.”

  • Am I permitted to enroll my child in a charter school that is not located in the local school district in which I live?

    Yes. Students enrolling in charter schools are not restricted to one local school district. Parents may choose the school that they feel is most appropriate for their child. Charter schools in North Carolina must admit any child residing in North Carolina who is qualified to attend North Carolina schools regardless of in which school district the child resides.

    For the purposes of sibling preference, what is the definition of a “sibling?”

    The law defines a sibling to include any of the following who reside in the same household: “half siblings, stepsiblings, and children residing in a family foster home.” Charter schools, by law, are permitted to offer sibling preference, but are not required to do so. Each school should have a board policy defining which legally permitted preferences it will grant. The provisions of the law may be found at G.S. 115C-238.29F(5a)(a).

  • Are charter schools required to follow my child’s IEP from the previous school?

    When a child enrolls in a charter school with an IEP from a previous school, the charter school must follow that IEP until the charter school IEP team meets to review and revise the IEP or develop a new IEP.

  • Are criminal history checks required at charter schools?

    Yes. The charter school is required, by statute, to do criminal background checks in a fashion similar to that of the LEA in which the charter school is located. The policy shall be applied uniformly as a requirement for all applicants before an unconditional job offer is given. An applicant may be employed conditionally while the charter school board of directors is checking the person’s criminal history and making a decision based on that.

  • Background – What is a charter school?

    Charter schools are public schools operated by private nonprofit boards. The primary funding sources for charter schools are local, state, and federal tax dollars. The schools have open enrollment with no discrimination, no religious associations, and no tuition. In short, charter schools are public schools serving public students with public dollars for the public benefit.

  • Can a charter school only offer special education services after the school day has concluded?

    No, except in rare circumstances where exceptional student needs, as stated in the IEP, require otherwise. Special education must be delivered within the typical hours of the school day and school calendar. Special education is part of the student’s educational program – not an add-on such as tutoring, homework club, etc.

  • Can Foreign Exchange Students enroll in charter schools?

    G.S. 115C-238.29F(g)(1), states, “Any child who is qualified under the laws of this State for admission to a public school is qualified for admission to a charter school.” The NC School Attendance and Student Accounting manual states, “Foreign Exchange students coming to North Carolina are not domiciles of North Carolina and must be enrolled as Visiting Students.” Therefore, Foreign Exchange students cannot enroll in charter schools because they are not domiciled in North Carolina.

  • Concerns or Issues – What do I do if I have an issue with a charter school or its board?

    First, talk to your child’s teacher and/or school administration. Schedule an appointment so that you have sufficient time to talk with the teacher or school administrator. Each school must have a grievance process, so if the issue remains unresolved, inquire about the grievance process and follow it as outlined in the policy. Copies of the grievance policy are typically located in the Parent Handbook, the school’s website, and/or in the school’s main office. Ultimately, the charter school board is responsible for all aspects of the school’s operations, including resolution of disputes or concerns brought forth by parents. The decision of the nonprofit board, much like that of an elected school district board, is final. If after all concerns have been exhausted, there is still not a satisfactory resolution, you may contact the Office of Charter Schools and ask for the consultant that is assigned to the school.

  • Do charter schools have pre-K or after school programs?

    A charter school serves students in grades K-12 only, so if it has a pre-K, it must be separate from the approved public school (with no preference to get into the lottery). Parents that choose to enroll in the preschool must be informed from the beginning of the separation between the charter school and the preschool. In the event preschool parents decide to apply for enrollment in the charter school, their children will go through the same enrollment and lottery process as any other student seeking admission. Preschool parents are not afforded an exemption from the lottery or any type of immediate entry into the school.

    After school programs are offered according to the school’s charter. Inquire with the individual school about its program offerings.

Note: Many responses are taken directly from G.S. 115C-238.29.
DPI Office of Charter Schools