Start a Charter School

One element of DC PCSB’s mission is to provide quality public school options through a comprehensive application review process. Each year, DC PCSB accepts applications to open new schools from a variety of applicants, including groups of individuals; private, public, or quasi-public entities; institutions of higher education; and experienced operators of existing public charter schools outside DC.

If you are considering applying to open a new public charter school, we strongly encourage you to inform DC PCSB staff of your plans as soon as possible, by emailing applications@dcpcsb.orgWe regularly meet with prospective applicants to discuss DC PCSB’s application process and expectations, and the applicant’s plans and questions.

Application Process

The 2017 Charter Application Guidelines outline the required steps applicants must complete to open a new public charter school or convert a traditional, parochial or private school to a public charter school. Applicants interested in opening a school should carefully read the 2017 Charter Application Guidelines and the School Reform Act.

Prospective applicants are also strongly encouraged to research DC’s educational landscape. To support that research, DC PCSB annually publishes its Background on Public Charter Schools in Washington, DC. This document provides information about the availability and quality of seats in traditional public schools and public charter schools in DC, as well as information about need and demand for existing and additional public school options.

For applicants applying in spring 2018, DC PCSB will be updating the 2017 Charter Application Guidelines. We expect to make relatively minor, clarifying changes. We will publish the 2018 Charter Application Guidelines, as well as an explanation of the changes we’ve made, in September 2017. 

DC PCSB evaluates each application based on four elements:

  1. A written application, based on the Charter Application Guidelines (available above);
  2. Site visits to the operator’s existing school(s), when applicable;
  3. Capacity interviews, which are question-and-answer-style discussions between DC PCSB staff and the applicant; and
  4. Public hearings, which are opportunities for the DC PCSB Board and the public to hear from the applicants.

Based on evidence gathered in each of these steps, DC PCSB reviews applicant groups based on five criteria:

  1. Demonstrated need for the school;
  2. Sufficient progress in developing the plan;
  3. Consistency of the mission and philosophy;
  4. Inclusiveness; and
  5. Founding group ability.

Each of these is defined in more detail in the Charter Application Guidelines.

Fall 2017 Charter Application Timeline


Action Item

August 1, 2017, 5:00pm

Strongly encouraged but not required: Deadline to submit a Letter of Declaration of Intent to Apply. Please see the instructions for this below.

September 5, 2017, 2:00pm

Deadline to submit electronic application for confirmation of completeness. We strongly discourage applicants from printing their applications before receiving confirmation that their application is complete.

September 5, 2017, 5:00pm

DC PCSB informs applicants if their electronic application is complete or not.

September 8, 2017, 2:00pm

Deadline to submit paper copies of application and, if applicable, completed electronic application.

September 28, 2017

Capacity Interviews

September 11 - October 30, 2017

Site Visits (if applicable) 

October 23, 2017, 6:00pm Public Hearing
November 20, 2017 DC PCSB Board votes on each application
No later than December 4, 2017 DC PCSB releases official decision letters for each application


Spring 2018 Charter Application Timeline

The Spring 2018 Charter Application Timeline will be announced in September 2017. 

All dates are subject to change. 

Still have questions? Submit a question, here, and look for the response, here. For more information about the application process, email

Charter Application Video

For previous years' charter application submissions, visit the Charter Applications Archive.