Considerations for Starting a Church-School in Massachusetts

Considerations for Starting a Church-School in Massachusetts
March 4, 2021 No Comments Blog,Uncategorized Dr. Rondeau

Starting a school can seem like a daunting task, but if God is calling your church to do so then don’t hesitate to follow His leading. Creating a quality program to successfully educate students requires building a team and planning. You may find the following checklist helpful for planning purposes. This list is not an official document nor is it intended to be exhaustive. It is a starting point.

Obtain Local Approval

  • Massachusetts has no requirements for registration, licensing or accreditation but it does require local approval for private schools.
  • Review this memorandum guiding the approval of a private school by the local school committees and superintendents of schools. 
  • The U.S. Department of Education provides the following summary of regulations for private schools and home schools operating in Massachusetts.

Curriculum Considerations:

  • Determine educational philosophy
    • Teacher-centered classroom instruction
      • Will generally require a teacher for each grade level or subject
    • Individualized mastery-based instruction
      • Generally allows for a single teacher to cover multiple grade levels and subjects
  • Research Christian curriculums and determine the best fit for your program
    • Do a cost-analysis of retail purchase vs. contract-based purchases
    • Be aware of time required to compile, submit and receive orders (can be several weeks during peak purchase periods).

Facilities Considerations:

  • What will your current facilities allow for classroom setup?
  • Do you have adequate restroom facilities for the number of students you anticipate?
  • Safety considerations
    • Working fire alarm system (do you need a sprinkler system?)
    • Adequate emergency building evacuation plan (fire drill plan)
    • Security system and/or video surveillance

Policy Development:

  • Determine schedule of fees and tuition
    • Create a carefully thought-out budget that includes, but is not limited to these factors: staff salaries, curriculum, facilities costs, furniture purchases, subscription/technology services…
    • Determine a minimum student number that will suffice the budget.
  • Handbooks and Forms
    • Development of a specific school handbook that guides the operation of the school.
      • Sample Handbook: This handbook was developed for a school using an individualized and mastery-based curriculum.
    • Staff Handbook
      • Specific policies regarding staff (including volunteers) hiring and conduct
      • Application forms should be included/developed
    • Forms
      • Application form (should be integrated into school management software).
      • Parent Agreement and Consent to Education Form which serves as an annual agreement between the school and the parents. Sample Form
      • General permission slip for trips and other activities. Sample Form
  • State required policies for all MA schools (public or private).
    • SAFIS enrollment for finger-print background checks of teachers:  
    • Ant-Hazing and Anti-Bullying Policy development and submission to Mass Dept. of Ed.:  Sample Policy
    • IPM (Insecticide and pesticide management) policy development and submission:  Sample Policy
  • Emergency Contingency Plan/Violence Prevention Policy

Technology Considerations

  • Sufficient internet speed/bandwidth available
  • School management program(s)
    • Significant investment upfront and then monthly fees
    • PraxiSchool is an all inclusive school management software program developed and designed by a former pastor and church school administrator.
  • E-learning platform implementation options
  • Consider Google or Microsoft education accounts
  • E-signature software options: i.e., DocHub, Docu-sign, Adobe, etc.
  • Public address system (depending on building size)
  • Internet filtering
    • Require specific software on individual devices
    • Router-based devices for the entire network

Staffing Considerations

  • Administrator/Director
    • Responsible for vision casting and successful operation of the school.
  • Principal/Headmaster (may also serve as administrator)
    • Responsible for oversight of academics, school procedures and maintaince of order and discipline
  • Teachers
  • Monitors/Teacher’s Aids
  • Secretary
  • School Committee or Board (Perhaps Church Board will function in this position).
  • Staff Training
    • Initial training will need to be extensive and thorough
    • Consider professional training opportunities from outside organizations
    • Continued training is also important through staff meetings, seminars/webinars, etc.
    • Consider requesting seasoned educators visit the school while in operation and provide analysis and suggestions for improvement.

Preschool Program Considerations

  • Preschools fall under the regulation of the EEC in Massachusetts
  • These tend to be highly regulated by the state for children under the compulsory education age of 6 years old.
  • Visit https://www.mass.gov/child-care-program-licensing for details on this type of program.
  • Existing schools may be exempt from these licensing requirements and can apply for a waiver/exemption.

Accreditation Considerations

Although not required, accreditation is something to consider as it is an acknowledgement and recognition by an outside entity of the quality of the program. There are some great Christian organizations that can provide this accreditation. You cannot be accredited until after your school has been operating for at least a full year, however, it is wise to take some of the accreditation requirements into account at the onset of starting your school. Review some of the following options.

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