Parent Tips & FAQs
Welcome to the Parent Tips & FAQs page where you can view frequently asked questions about charter schools, as well as information about the process to apply to and enroll in charter schools.
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Charter schools are publicly funded, independently-operated schools created to provide special opportunities for teachers, parents, students, and community members, all with the purpose of improving student learning through unique learning methods and teaching curricula. Charter schools are public schools which operate through a “charter”, or a formal, written agreement, with the local school board. In Philadelphia, the Board of Education (BOE) has that authority.
Charter schools are classified as public schools by the U.S. Department of Education. They receive public money, offer a free education, and are held to the same nondiscrimination standards as traditional public schools.
There are a number of differences between charter schools and School District of Philadelphia (SDP) public schools. Some of those differences include the freedom for charter schools to create their own curriculum, length of the school day and school year (as long as they meet state requirements), extracurricular programs and more.
Charter schools provide families and students with more public school options, where they can choose from a list of schools throughout the city what school option may be the best environment for their student(s), rather than be limited to their District neighborhood school.
Families are able to review a charter school’s program and decide on whether or not that school may provide their student(s) with the best academic support and success.
No. As independently run schools, charter schools have complete control of day-to-day operations. The CSO evaluates charter school policies and practices on an annual basis and, if we find that a charter school is non-compliant and the non-compliance is likely to affect a student’s well-being and/or access, we will address areas in need of reform and guide schools on corrective action(s) to take.
Parents can provide feedback for charter schools in many ways. Attending a school’s Board meeting is one way, as this allows families and community members the opportunity to meet a school’s Board members as well as additional school leaders, and share thoughts and concerns. Other ways to share feedback include completing parent surveys which the school provides, and also being apart of a school’s parent group or School Advisory Council (SAC), where members play a vital role in creating agendas and leading discussions that involve school climate. To learn more about SACs, click here.
The District’s Office of Family & Community Engagement (FACE) has a variety of resources for families, schools, and community members interested in SACs. To learn more, visit their page here.
The Charter Schools Office (CSO) makes available to the public each school’s Annual Charter Evaluation (ACE) which includes a school’s demographics and academic performance metrics. An archive of previous ACEs are also available to view for public records, which can be found here, as well as a school’s Renewal Report, which can be viewed here.
Additionally, the District Performance Office (DPO) has School Progress Reports (SPR Reports) made publicly available on their website. Click here if you want to learn more about SPR reports, or view your school’s individual report, per year.
You should be able to access the school’s code of conduct on their website. You can also view a school’s code of conduct on the Charter Schools Office (CSO) website by accessing our Charter Schools page and navigating to the school specific page.
As a reminder, Code of Conducts serve as a set of rules for schools and include standards and expectations, set by the school’s Board and organization leaders. Typically, you will find information about, but not limited to, a school’s dress code policy, academic calendar, disciplinary policies, and more.
Applying to a Charter School
Charter schools have what we refer to as a “cap”. This term simply refers to the maximum number of students a school is able to serve. Once a school reaches this number they will be at a full capacity and are unable to enroll more students.
To find out what a school’s maximum number is, otherwise known as enrollment number, families can visit each school’s profile page via our directory linked here.
To find out if a charter school has open seat availability, families should contact the school directly where they will be provided with more information. To view school contact information, visit our directory page here.
Families can also visit the Great Philly Schools (GPS) website here where they can view a list of all charter schools that have open seats.
Please note, open seat availability is typically updated every August, closer to the new school year.
Attendance & Truancy
Truancy refers to a student having three (3) or more unexcused absences in the current school year. These absences do not need to be in a row. After three (3) unexcused absences, schools are permitted to send the parent/guardian a Third Day Illegal Notice (C-31) within ten (10) days of the student’s third unexcused absence.
There is also ‘Habitually Truant’, which is defined as a student having six (6) or more school days of unexcused absences during the current school year. These six (6) days do not need to be consecutive.
Truancy is handled by the school, not the Charter Schools Office (CSO). It is important that families know their student’s charter school may have additional policies regarding attendance and truancy and respective disciplinary procedures, such as a demerit system. The CSO encourages families and students to review the school’s Code of Conduct to learn more about these policies.
Below are some examples of excused/ lawful absences. Please consult with your school to learn more about their attendance policy.
- Excused early dismissal
- Death in family/ family emergency
- Educational trip/ tour with approval
- Parent/ guardian submits a written request for excusal prior to the absence
- Out-of-school suspension
If you receive a truancy citation from your student’s school and he/she has a disability, you should immediately contact the school’s special needs or special education coordinator and request Individualized Education Plan (IEP) team meeting to discuss your student’s absences.
A school should never punish a student for truant behavior that is related to or caused by that student’s disability.
Schools are required to take attendance for each school throughout the 2021-22 School Year in alignment with guidance, linked here, issued by the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE). Please consult with your child’s school around their policy.
The Pennsylvania Departments of Education and Health (PDE & PDH) has issued guidance surrounding how schools should proceed in the event of a suspected case of COVID-19. Click here for more information.
Please contact your child’s school directly to receive technology and/or internet support.
Suspension is defined as the denial to a student the right to attend school and to take part in any school function for any period of time up to 10 days. A student’s suspension is authorized by a leader of the school, such as the principal or in some cases the dean of students.
In-school suspension (ISS) is an exclusion from a classroom for disciplinary purposes that allow a student to remain under the direct supervision of school personnel.
- Direct supervision means school personnel are physically in the same location as the students under their supervision.
An out-of-school suspension (OSS) can be categorized as seen below:
- Short-term OSS, which is an exclusion from school and/or any school activity for three (3) or fewer school days; and
- Long-term OSS, which is an exclusion from school and/or any school activity or function for a period of four (4) to 10 instructional days.
In both suspension cases, the school shall immediately notify the student’s parent/guardian in writing of the reason for the suspension. For long-term OSS, families have the right to an informal hearing.
Expulsion means a student is removed from school for more than 10 days in a row. A student may be expelled for a specific amount of time (such as 30 days), or they may be permanently expelled.
In order for a school to proceed with an expulsion, the parent/guardian must first be contacted with a notice that states the school is proceeding with an expulsion and will hold an expulsion hearing, where the school’s board members and leadership will review all documentation regarding the incident and make a final decision on the student’s status.
If your child is suspended for a period of four (4) to 10 days, you have the right to an informal hearing within five (5) days of the suspension. This allows your family to meet with school officials to explain your side of the story, hear from others involved in the incident, and discuss ways to avoid suspension in the future. The student can speak during the hearing, invite others to support his or her story, and ask questions.
The school must hold a formal hearing before any expulsion. The school must give three (3) days notice of the time and place of the hearing. You may ask to reschedule this hearing if you can show good reason. The hearing must be held before the school board, before a committee, or before a hearing officer appointed by the board.
In the time leading up to the formal hearing, a student will remain in his or her regular class schedule, unless he or she has been identified as a “threat.” At the formal hearing, parents and families have the right to:
- Hire a lawyer.
- Explain your side of the story.
- Invite others to support your story.
- Ask questions of the school or anyone representing the school.
Formal hearings must be recorded, and a decision must be approved by the majority vote of the school’ board. Families and students then have thirty days to appeal to the local Court of Common Pleas. Please note, if you waive the hearing and your child is expelled, that decision cannot be appealed.
For more information on hearings, click here.
The informal hearing is held to bring forth all relevant information regarding the event for which the student may be suspended and for students, their parents or guardians and school officials to discuss ways by which future offenses might be avoided.
The following due process requirements shall be observed in regard to the informal hearing:
- Notification of the reasons for the suspension shall be given in writing to the parents or guardians and to the student.
- Sufficient notice of the time and place of the informal hearing shall be given.
- A student has the right to question any witnesses present at the hearing.
- A student has the right to speak and produce witnesses on his own behalf.
- The school entity shall offer to hold the informal hearing within the first five (5) days of the suspension.
- Notification of the charges shall be sent to the student’s parents or guardians by certified mail.
- At least three (3) days’ notice of the time and place of the hearing shall be given. A copy of the expulsion policy, notice that legal counsel may represent the student and hearing procedures shall be included with the hearing notice. A student may request the rescheduling of the hearing when the student demonstrates good cause for an extension.
- The hearing shall be held in private unless the student or parent requests a public hearing.
- The student may be represented by counsel, at the expense of the parents or guardians, and may have a parent or guardian attend the hearing.
- The student has the right to be presented with the names of witnesses against the student, and copies of the statements and affidavits of those witnesses.
- The student has the right to request that the witnesses appear in person and answer questions or be cross-examined.
- The student has the right to testify and present witnesses on his own behalf.
- A written or audio record shall be kept of the hearing. The student is entitled, at the student’s expense, to a copy. A copy shall be provided at no cost to a student who is indigent.
- The proceeding shall be held within 15 school days of the notification of charges, unless mutually agreed to by both parties. A hearing may be delayed for any of the following reasons, in which case the hearing shall be held as soon as reasonably possible:
- Laboratory reports are needed from law enforcement agencies.
- Evaluations or other court or administrative proceedings are pending due to a student invoking his rights under the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act (20 U.S.C.A. § § 1400—1482)
- In cases in juvenile or criminal court involving sexual assault or serious bodily injury, delay is necessary due to the condition or best interests of the victim.
- Notice of a right to appeal the results of the hearing shall be provided to the student with the expulsion decision.
No. A student’s suspension should not be counted as an unexcused absence.
Yes. Schoolwork for students with more than a four (4) day suspension must be provided to the parent/guardian at the conference, and is due upon reinstatement.
Students should also be given the opportunity to make up any tests that they missed during the suspension.
Charter schools typically follow the District policy, which states that Kindergarten, first, and second grade students (K-2) should not be suspended unless their actions result in serious bodily harm. However, because charter schools act as their own District and create various rules and procedures, you should contact the school to learn more about their age criteria for disciplining students.
Please also review the school’s code of conduct for additional information regarding their discipline guidelines and processes.
Records & Transcripts
If you are looking to obtain records and/or transcripts from an open charter school you must request this information directly from the school, as they manage all student records. Unfortunately the Charter Schools Office (CSO) does not manage nor have access to student records at any time.
Please note, if you need records from a closed charter school you must contact the Office of Records Management at the School District of Philadelphia (SDP). They can be reached at 215-500-4780, option 5. You may also fill out a request via the following website: https://philasd.scriborder.com/. Click here for more information, or visit the Office of Records Management site here.
IEP stands for ‘Individualized Education Plan’ and is the written plan for the education of a student who has a disability. The IEP is based on the individual student’s needs and describes the specialized, or tailored, help the student will receive in school.
A 504 Plan is designed to help parents of students with physical or mental impairments in schools work with educators to design customized educational plans. These 504 plans legally ensure that students will be treated fairly at school. Students can qualify for 504 plans if they have physical or mental impairments that affect or limit any of their abilities to:
- Walk, breathe, eat, or sleep
- Communicate, see, hear, or speak
- Read, concentrate, think, or learn
- Stand, bend, lift, or work
Child Find is a review of the student’s vision and hearing. Assessments at reasonable intervals to determine a student’s performance based on grade-appropriate standards in core academic subjects, A systematic observation of the student’s behavior in the classroom or area in which the student is displaying difficulty.
This process should include: A review of the student’s records including attendance and report cards, You may request that the evaluation take place without going through these screening activities.
Manifestation Determination refers to the investigation a student’s Individualized Education Plan (IEP) team must conduct following an (disciplinary) incident, in order to determine if a student’s behavior was the result of their disability—or a “manifestation” of the disability.
The student’s IEP team should outline steps to take to reduce problem behaviors and replace them with appropriate ones. If a plan already exists, it must be reviewed and, if necessary, changed to prevent future incidents.
Yes, but only under certain circumstances. Before suspending a student with special needs, the Individualized Education Plan (IEP) team must conduct a “Manifestation Determination” to determine whether the student’s behavior is attributable to his/her disability. If so, a school may NOT suspend the student, and instead consider modifications to the student’s IEP in order to provide additional support.
You should contact the school’s ELL or Special Education (SPED) coordinator.
If you are applying for special admission district schools, make sure to ask your school counselor about the LeGare Process and how that applies to you.
Please refer to the Office of Transportation’s website to review FAQs related to SEPTA Fare Cards.
Please note, public school students in grades 1-6 receive school bus services. Students in grades 7-12 if eligible will receive a SEPTA Fare Card. A student must live 1.5 miles or more away from school in order to receive a Card.
Note, Kindergarten students do not receive bus services.
Families should meet with the school’s Director of Special Education within the school to inquire about their student receiving special transportation accommodations if needed. If the school agrees with this request, they will add the accommodations to the student’s IEP and forward this information to the Office of Transportation over at the District for processing. Families should receive this information in the mail once complete.
No. The District determines student bus routes. Exceptions can be made in limited circumstances, such as if a student needs special accommodations, or is homeless.
For additional information, please contact your school to learn more about their transportation requirements. You may also visit the Office of Transportation’s website to learn more about District-wide transportation requirements
Yes. If a renaissance charter school does not fall within a particular zone, the school may only provide a TransPass. This varies from traditional charter schools who are able to provide bus services for students as long as they live within the 1.5 mile radius, determined by the District.
Please contact your school to confirm whether or not they provide bus services and/or TransPasses.
Do you have additional questions or concerns? Please fill out our Have a Question form here and submit when completed. A CSO member will contact you directly.
Last modified: February 2, 2022