Opening a school can be a fulfilling and rewarding experience, but it can also be a daunting task. From determining what kind of school to open to hiring teachers and preparing the curriculum, there are many steps involved in the process. In this guide, we will outline the key steps involved in opening a school.
Step 1: Determine What kind of School You Want to Open & Create your Business Plan
The first step in opening a school is to decide what type of school you want to open and which grades you plan to serve. You have several options, such as daycare, preschool, Montessori, bilingual, or charter schools. Each type of school has its unique requirements and regulations, which may require approval from the local school board. Once you’ve chosen the type of school you want to open, you can select a name and create a brand for your school. Starting with a preschool usually makes the process easier as you can gradually add grades as your school grows.
Creating a business plan around the type of school you would like to open is the next step for determining the investment requirements & the number of students you will need. Creating a brand new business plan can be a lofty endeavour. Surrounding yourself with people who has prior experience with education business planning can be key to the project success.
Here are the things to consider:
- Whether the school will be nonprofit or for profit
- What grades will it serve? Preschool, K-12
- What type of school will it be? Bilingual, Montessori, Charter, Waldo, etc
Step 2: Find the Right Location Based on Your Target Families
Once you’ve decided on the type of school you want to open, the next critical step is to find the right location, aka zip code that aligns with your target families’ demands, needs, and preferences. You’ll need to consider several factors, such as the neighborhood, accessibility, and local amenities that are essential to your target audience. For instance, if you’re targeting families with young children, you’ll want to look for a location that’s easily accessible and safe for children to commute to and from school.
Location factors to consider for the target audience needs:
- Location demand & competition
- Neighborhood’s zoning and licensing requirements
- Local amenities, business and accessibility
Other important factors to consider include the size and condition of the facility, zoning, and licensing requirements, and the cost of rent or purchase. You’ll need to ensure that the location you choose is in compliance with local and state regulations regarding schools and education.
Finding the right location is an essential aspect of opening a school and can significantly impact your success. By considering your target audience’s needs and preferences and doing thorough research, you can find a location that will help attract and retain students and families, leading to long-term success.
Step 3: Find the Facility Best Suited to be a School
Once you’ve identified the optimal location, it’s time to find the facility best suited to be a school. This could be a previous school that is now empty or any other facility that meets your needs. Previous schools are usually easier because they already meet the licensing requirements, requiring fewer renovations, making it easier & cheaper to open. Depending on the facility you have chosen, you may need to renovate the space. Renovations could include painting, adding or removing walls, installing new flooring, building extra bathrooms, or simply upgrading the facilities.
Step 4: Negotiate & Sign the Lease
Negotiating the lease is a key step for getting the optimal conditions, which will help set your school up for long-term success. Depending on the type of facility you have found, there are certain levers that can be used to an optimal deal with the landlord. Working with an established education partner is one of them, since it reduces the project risks. As long as you demonstrate the longterm success of your project, landlords will prefer schools due to the longevity of such businesses.
Step 5: Licensing Your School
Licensing your facility is an integral part of the process since, without the proper inspections & licenses, you are not legally allowed to welcome students. This process begins with determining the local, state, and federal licensing requirements. You will then need to prepare the necessary documents that you will submit to the licensing agencies. This may include building plans, safety plans, fire safety reports, and other documentation that demonstrates compliance with applicable regulations. Once you have prepared the necessary documents, you can submit the application and then scheduled the required inspections. Once everything is in order, you will receive your license!
Step 6: Prepare the Curriculum & Pedagogy
To start a school, it’s crucial to understand the curriculum requirements for your state and/or country. The curriculum requirements determine ‘what‘ is being taught.
Next, you must determine the pedagogy, aka ‘how‘ the curriculum is taught. This can be “project-based learning, inquiry-based learning, etc… Finding the best pedagogy is key for crafting the ideal learning environment your students will be in. Based on what you choose your curriculum & pedagogies to be, you will now know what kind of teachers you need.
Additionally, finding & implementing learning and student management systems can help you run your school more efficiently.
Step 7: Hiring the Best-Fit Teachers
A quality school is nothing without quality teachers. The quality of your teachers and how well they implement the curriculum and how they interact with students will greatly impact the success of your school, so it’s essential to ensure they meet the necessary standards. If your school pedagogy puts emphasis on ‘social & emotional learning,’ it is important to hire teachers. who create a warm, safe & nurturing classroom environment that allows the students to blossom.
To hire the best teachers for your new school, first determine the qualifications & state requirements needed and advertise the job. Screen applicants’ resumes and conduct interviews with the most qualified candidates, followed by reference checks and classroom observations. Once you identify the best candidate, make a job offer and provide an orientation program to introduce them to the school’s pedagogical philosophy, culture and policies.
Step 8: Start Communicating to the Surrounding Community & Grow Your Enrolment
Once your facility is ready, it’s important to engage with the community to generate awareness & interest, find prospective families and complete enrolments. To achieve this, consider hosting open house events and offering promotional incentives such as early-bird discounts, attending school fairs, or implementing a marketing plan that includes creating a website and social media presence, running online ads, and sending flyers. These strategies will help to create awareness and interest in your school, which will help with enrolment.
Developing a marketing & communications strategy from scratch to introduce your new school to the environment can be a daunting process. Working with a trusted partner with experience opening schools in new markets can be crucial for ensuring the success of your project.
Step 9: Finalize the Applications and the Number of Classrooms You Will Have
After preparing your curriculum and hiring teachers, you need to determine the number of classrooms required and finalize your applications. This involves determining the number of students you can accommodate in each classroom and ensuring you have enough teachers and resources to support them. You will also need to ensure that all the necessary paperwork, such as enrolment forms and permissions, are complete before the start of the school year.
Step 10: Grand Opening!
Finally, it’s time for the grand opening of your school! Celebrate this exciting milestone with a ribbon-cutting ceremony and welcome your first students and families to your new school. By following these steps, you can create a successful and thriving school that provides a valuable educational experience for your students.
Bonus Step: Apply for Accreditation
This will give your school undeniable credibility, making it easy to enroll new students. Working with an established education group can streamline the accreditation process.
How to Start?
Opening a school can be both a challenging and immensely rewarding experience. For those who want to start a school with less risk and with the support of an established organization, using a franchise model can be a viable option. Working with an established school franchise like the French American Academy will help save you 10 years worth of development costs.
The French American Academy supports its franchisees through out the entire school opening process as well as how to continue growing & developing the school after the grand opening.
Franchisee support includes but is not limited to:
- Conducting the market research and identifying to optimal zip codes for your school
- Identifying possible commercial real-estate properties and school building in the optimal zip codes
- Negotiate the rental contract to acquire the best lease conditions
- Facilitate the licensing process
- Implement a market entry communication & marketing action-plan to generate the awareness needed to fill the classrooms
- Train you & your staff in how to run a highly successful schools that offers quality education, pedagogy, & curriculum
- Helps with the hiring teachers and staff, whether they are coming from France or the United States
- Full support in the accreditation process for both the French Education Ministry and the United States education authorities.
- And much more
If you want to learn more about how to open your own school, get in touch with us today!