Priorities, Timelines and Relationships

There are no set rules about how long it takes to set up an independent school because so much depends on local situations and on the available resources. Although there are rare examples of successful rush ventures, it will take several months of work to prepare and submit Alberta Education application by January 20th and be ready to open doors in September. Those who begin planning at least early in the winter generally have a higher success rate.

The two items that most often cause a delay in the opening of the school are the availability of building facilities and of qualified teaching personnel. Advertising for teachers should begin as early in the calendar year as possible, keeping in mind that normally the best teachers will not be available after the end of May. The item that is often critical for the long-term operation of the schools is the development of a good set of By-laws and policies so that to everyone is united on the basic goals and directions of the school.

The What-to-do-When Timeline that follows serves as a one-year sample planning guide for the organization of a new independent school up to opening day. The timeline may, of course, be stretched or shortened in accordance with the available time.

September – October

  • Set up Steering Committee of interested and committed people
  • Prepare statement of goals, pedagogy, curriculum, etc.
  • Decide if school will be designated as an accredited private school
  • Inform Alberta Education Regional Office of intent to open a private school (New School Application form will be sent out upon notification)
  • Obtain copies of relevant regulations and policies
  • Hold information sessions about the proposed school
  • Survey potential supporters and parents to gauge feasibility
  • Determine who will send children under what conditions
  • Prepare and circulate draft By-laws for incorporation


October – November

  • Organize inaugural meeting of school society; elect board, appoint committees.
  • Submit By-laws to Alberta Services Corporate Registry to incorporate Society or Part 9 Company.
  • Inform local board(s) of intent to open school, seek cooperation
  • Begin facilities search
  • Begin work on developing operating policies for the school
  • Make preliminary inquiries regarding staff availability


November – December

  • Keep supporters and interested parents informed of planning progress by means of a newsletter.
  • Consider holding another information session: bring in a speaker (e.g. AISCA’s Executive Director)
  • Apply to Revenue Canada for registration as a charity if desired
  • Consider preliminary reports of committees
  • Review Alberta Education documents for private school operations
  • Begin advertising for a principal


January – February

  • Appoint principal – engage in final preparations of New School Application
  • Begin advertising for other staff
  • Consider report and recommendations of committee regarding facilities (this is becoming urgent if not yet confirmed)
  • Finalize policies, especially those required by Alberta Education
  • Consider reports and recommendations of other committees, especially those preparing information for New School Application (Alberta Education)
  • Prepare 3-year Education and Financial Plans for the school as required in the new private school application
  • Submit New Private School Application Form with required documents by January 20th deadline
  • Interview with Alberta Education representatives
  • Prepare Annual Operating Plan




April – May

  • Submit Annual Operating Plan when requested by Alberta Education
  • Receive confirmation of Private school accreditation
  • Offer contracts to staff – conditional on adequate enrolment.
  • Finalize and begin to implement building plans
  • Hold public information and registration event(s)
  • Hold promotional and fund-raising event


June – August

  • tie up loose ends, prepare school site, purchase supplies, etc.
  • Prepare staff, student and parent handbooks
  • Board, Principal and Staff prepare for the new school year


End of August

  • Official School Opening: a celebration for students, parents, supporters, special guests; be sure to invite MLA, media, local public and separate school officials, AISCA staff – make it special!

Starting an Independent School can be a thrilling adventure; however, it is a complex task that requires considerable knowledge and effort to complete successfully.  The road to approval and grand opening requires connections and collaboration with stakeholders, associations and service providers at both the municipal and provincial levels.  Building and developing relationships to gather information, establish support and provide encouragement are essential to establishing independent schools.  The following connections will provide information and a supportive base to help you get started.

One of the most important resources for the new independent schools, especially in its initial stages, will be the Association of Independent Schools and Colleges in Alberta (AISCA). The Association’s collective experience has touched on virtually every situation the new school will face, and therefore is a valuable source of advice.

AISCA works on behalf of independent schools on issues related to public funding and, especially, on issues related to the integrity of the school as a legitimate alternative. AISCA also serves the schools by helping to resolve actual and potential conflicts with the Department of Education.

AISCA staff are available to prospective parents or operators to provide advice and encouragement.



AISCA Office

201, 11830 – 111 Avenue

Edmonton, AB T5G 0E1


Phone: (780) 469-9868

Fax: (780) 469-9880

Email: [email protected]

Office Hours: 8 AM – 4 PM Monday-Friday

The first contact with Alberta Education should be with the School Accreditation and Standards Branch at 780-427-7235 regarding intent to establish a private school.  Branch staff will provide information and appropriate notification forms to begin the approval process.

Accredited Funded Private schools are monitored on a regular and cycled basis by Field Services Managers.  Private ECS Operators are monitored on a regular basis by the School Accreditation and Standards Branch.

Monitoring involves on-site visits and a review of mandatory requirements as outlined in applicable legislation and regulations, including programming, to assure alignment with regulations governing private schools and private ECS operators.



Independent schools are part of the broader educational system, and everyone will benefit if good relations can be maintained between stakeholders within the system.

The School Act also allows public boards to set up alternative programs within existing public schools. Given the opportunity a local board may be interested in adopting the proposed independent school program as an alternative program.

Aside from their intrinsic value, good relationships may help to secure rental space in public school buildings, transportation accommodations, and useful advice from experienced consultants and administrators.  Many public school jurisdictions are willing to rent surplus classroom space to independent schools.  Some public boards transport independent school students on existing bus routes for little or no cost to the parents.  Others charge fees for the service while still others refuse to provide any transportation services under any circumstances.


Because school buildings are subject to local health, safety and building inspections, it is important to build and maintain good relationships with those officials responsible for such approvals. They should be consulted and kept informed of building plans whether the school will be renting space or constructing a new building. Do not assume that a building previously used by a public school will be automatically approved for an independent school: a change in designated usage of a building may require the implementation of the latest building code requirements.
Administrative staff, certain teachers (such as those who teach shop or home economics), and volunteers in some circumstances must be covered under WCB insurance.  If your teaching staff does not have other disability insurance, it may be beneficial to extend WCB coverage to everyone.  Schools should contact the WCB for further information