Steps to Establishing an Independent School

1. Formalize Organizational Structure Governance

Private schools are governed under a variety of organizational structures. To be eligible for funding, an accredited private school must be incorporated as a society under the Societies Act or registered as a non-profit company under Part 9 of the Companies Act or operate under a special Act of the legislature. Each private school must operate in accordance with its approved bylaws.

Most not-for-profit organizations in Alberta are incorporated under the Societies Act, a statute of the province of Alberta.  Incorporation under this statute is the simplest and least costly way to become incorporated.

Section 3 of the Societies Act states:

3(1) Five or more persons may become incorporated under this Act for any benevolent, philanthropic, charitable, provident, scientific, artistic, literary, social, educational, agricultural, sporting or other useful purpose, but not for the purpose of carrying on a trade or business.

Some not-for-profit organizations in Alberta are becoming incorporated under the Alberta Companies Act. One of the main advantages of incorporating under this Act is that an organization can engage in business activities. The Societies Act restrictions on such activities do not apply.  If your not-for-profit organization is, or will be, involved in a significant business operation of a permanent nature, seriously consider the Alberta Companies Act. A second-hand store to raise funds is an example of a business in which a not-for-profit organization might be involved.

How to Incorporate

Incorporation under provincial legislation, such as the Societies Act or Alberta Companies Act, is done through Service Alberta’s Corporate Registry which handles incorporation for non-profit organizations as well as businesses that operate for profit.

To form a society, you must provide a society name and address, the objectives or purposes for which the society was incorporated, the bylaws for the society, and the filing fee. At least five persons (either individuals or incorporated bodies or a combination of both) must sign the application as the incorporators of the society. The following steps are needed to complete the task.

  • Step 1: Determine a society name
  • Step 2: Develop objects and complete an application form
  • Step 3: Complete a set of bylaws
  • Step 4: Set the address
  • Step 5: Submit the documents for approval to Corporate Registry Office
  • Step 6: Receive Certificate of Incorporation if all requirements are met

A more detailed explanation or these steps can be found in the booklet “Aligning Structure with Strategy – Incorporation and other Options” published by Alberta Culture and Tourism.


If an organization is involved in a substantial business or trade or has substantial holdings, with objects other than the acquisition of gain, it must incorporate the organization or the business part of the organization as a non-profit company also known as a Part 9 Company under the Companies Act (Part 9). The organization must prove to the Registrar that it is being formed for the purpose of promoting art, science, education, religion, charity or any other useful object (such as a second-hand clothing store) or is formed solely for the purpose of promoting recreation for its members (such as a golf club or junior hockey club) and that its intention is to apply any profits or other income of the association in promoting its objects and to prohibit payment of any dividend to its members. The Companies Act is more complex than the Societies Act and applications need more careful review so lawyers should be consulted.

There are two types of non-profit companies:

  • Private non-profit companies have restrictions on the number of members or shareholders, the number of shares or membership transfers, and there are restrictions on invitations to the public to subscribe for shares or debentures of the company. The specific wording of the provisions can be found in the Companies Act. At least two people are needed to form a private company.
  • Public non-profit companies do not have the restrictions of private companies; however, they have numerous and much more stringent filing requirements. At least three people are needed to form these companies.

Most non-profit groups needing to incorporate under the Companies Act should make certain they do so as a private company. Those groups with more than 50 members normally incorporate the organization under the Societies Act and then incorporate a private Part 9 company to operate the business part. It can be set up so the society controls the separate company. If the business fails, the whole society does not go down with it.

To form a non-profit company, you must provide a company name and address, a name search report (unless you have a ‘numbered’ name), the type of non-profit company and the purposes for which it was incorporated, the articles for the company (internal operating rules), and the incorporation fee.  The following steps are needed to complete the task.

  • Step 1: Determine a name – Two types: Named or Numbered Company
  • Step 2: Complete Memorandum of Association
  • Step 3: Complete Articles of the Association
  • Step 4: Set the address
  • Step 5: Complete directors form, if applicable
  • Step 6: Submit the documents for approval Corporate Registry Office
  • Step 7: Receive Certificate of Incorporation if the requirements are met

A more detailed explanation or these steps can be found in the booklet “Aligning Structure with Strategy – Incorporation and other Options” published by Alberta Culture and Tourism.

2. Alberta Education Application and Approval

Notify Alberta Education of your intent to establish a private school

Applications to establish a private school or ECS program must be requested from The School Accreditation and Standards Branch of Alberta Education at 780-427-7235.  The application consists of two parts:

  1. the application form itself, in Word format, and
  2. an optional Excel spreadsheet for completion of your financial information and business plans.

Completed application forms are submitted to the Provincial Coordinator of Private Schools and must be received by January 20th.  Applications are reviewed by a team of individuals from the programming and administrative areas of Alberta Education.

Following this review applicants are contacted for an interview to take place at the proposed site of the school or ECS program to discuss the application and operating plans.

Should the evaluation team find merit in the proposal, applicants will be given an Annual Operating Plan to complete.

Following a final review, the Provincial Coordinator of Private Schools will make a recommendation to the Minister of Education regarding application approval.

Alberta Education will notify the private school or ECS operator regarding the status of their accreditation.

Accredited Private schools must operate for one year with no government funding.  Independent schools are eligible for provincial funding in their second year of operation if they meet all the requirements for funding.  Accredited Early Childhood Services Operators will receive full funding during the first year of operation.

In the first year, an Alberta Education manager will meet with the private school operator to monitor the school for compliance with Alberta Education requirements. There is no set timeline for when that visit will take place, but the manager will provide adequate notice of the monitoring visit.

3. Completing the Alberta Education Application for establishing a Private School or becoming a Private ECS Operator

  • Name of your non-profit organization or company?
  • Corporate registry number?
  • Address of the society/company?
  • Name and contact information for officers of the society/company? (Chairperson, Treasurer, Secretary)
  • Name of the school being established?
  • Address of the school?
  • Telephone number and a regularly monitored e-mail address for the school.
  • What type of school will it be? (Registered School, ECS Program, Accredited School, Heritage Language School)
  • Formalize the history of the organization (non-profit society).
  • Establish the rationale for operating an independent school or ECS program.
  • How will students benefit educationally from the program you will offer?
  • Do any board members have experience with other independent school/ECS program applications and/or operations?
  • Evaluate the board members’ relevant business and/or educational leadership experience.
  • Have any members of the board been involved in bankruptcy proceedings?
  • Describe the role of the board chair and the principal.
  • Does the board chair have any other roles within the school structure?
  • What is the organization’s policy on criminal record checks for employees and/or board members?
  • Are board members related to each other, or related to any proposed school staff?
  • Will there be a Parent Advisory Council? If so, what will its role be?
  • What processes will be used to engage parents and stakeholders with your school vision and mission?
  • What will parents gain by sending their children to the new proposed private school?
A special education program must be offered in any private school that admits a student with special needs. Private school operators should provide appropriate student programming.

Early Childhood Services (ECS) programs may be offered by any private school operator. The private school operator must meet the requirements set out in the Early Childhood Services Regulation, including offering a Kindergarten program that complies with the Kindergarten Program Statement. Funding is available from the first year of operation, and operators are expected to provide access to a minimum of 475 hours of instruction.

Home Education is a program of choice whereby a parent provides a home education program to a student under the supervision of an associate board or associate private school. Under the Home Education Regulation, the parent is responsible for developing, administering and managing the home education program. The associate board or associate private school also has responsibilities.

Only an accredited funded private school may be an associate private school.

A blended program is an educational program that consists of two distinct parts:

(1)  a school-provided program where a teacher employed by a school board or an accredited funded private school is responsible for providing the planning, resource selection, instructional delivery, assessment and evaluation of student progress in selected courses that follow the Alberta Programs of Study; and

(2)  a home education program that meets the requirements of the Home Education Regulation, including supervision by an associate board or associate private school.

  • What is the focus of the private school/ECS program?
  • Hold information evenings, recording names of attendees and gathering community comments regarding the proposed independent school/ECS program
  • Identify and meet with representatives of organizations and/or private schools/ECS programs that may be potential sources of support?
  • What will be your proposed school’s indicators or measures of success?
  • How will you establish and develop educational leadership at the school?
  • How will your proposed school attract and retain qualified, competent teachers?
  • What are your expectations for teacher professional practice and development?
  • How will teachers’ growth, supervision and evaluation policies be implemented?
  • Will your proposed school/ECS program enroll students with special needs?
  • Describe how requirements of the Alberta Program of Studies including elementary Physical Education and music will be met.

If approved for operation, the private school/private ECS will be required to abide by several legislated guiding documents.  Take time to familiarize yourself with the following documents:

  • Alberta School Act
  • Private Schools Regulation/ECS Regulation
  • Funding Manual for School Authorities
  • Guide to Education ECS to Grade 12
  • Kindergarten Program Statement
  • Copies of Fire, Health and Zoning inspections and authorizations are required for application? All reports must be current to within 3 years of the present date.
  • Description of the building and playground/school yard will be requested. Details such as square footage, shared spaces, number of classrooms, student capacity, number of washrooms and special needs accessibility should be included. Photos where possible of both the interior and exterior of the proposed facility will be helpful.
  • Will transportation be provided for students? How will it be implemented?
  • Prepare emergency response plans for the school and develop supporting documents for situations involving fire, inclement weather and lockdown.
  • Become familiar with the PASI (Provincial Approach to Student Information) system and the requirements to abide by its usage? Make plans to incorporate PASI implementation in your school/ECS program?

Policy development relating to each of the following areas will be required:

  • Evaluation of students
  • Teacher growth, supervision and evaluation of teachers
  • Safety of outdoor education and field trips
  • Health protocols
  • 3-year Education Plans
  • Policy related to section 16.1 of the School Act (ability for students to establish a club or hold an activity to promote welcoming, caring, respectful and safe learning environments and the ability to name these clubs gay-straight alliances, or queer straight alliances.

If you have questions regarding policy development in these areas, please contact the Private Schools Manager at Alberta Education by calling 780-422-5420.

Other Recommended Policies to establish and implement Best Practices

  • Admissions
  • Special Education
  • Tuition & Fees
  • Extra-curricular activities
  • Transportation of Students
  • Discipline (including suspension & expulsion
  • School Evaluation
  • Staff Contracts and related issues (salary grid, benefits, administration time, etc.)
Organizations seeking approval to establish a private school must develop a thorough business plan addressing at minimum, the following components:

  1. Executive Summary: This summarizes the key highlights of the business It should be concise explaining what the school offers, its philosophy and objectives for student outcomes and future growth and development.
  2. School Summary: School location(s) are secured providing address, footage, and general building/property description; ownership structure and history outlined, including start-up plans and how the school plans to operate the first year without funding from Alberta Education.
  3. Management Team: Describes the organizational structure, providing list and professional background of board members and school leadership
  4. Educational Services: Describes the school’s educational program, highlighting unique aspects of the program and how they respond to needs of the
  5. Community Analysis: Identify the school community, the needs of the parent population and how the educational program will meet those needs. Identify the expected initial enrolment, growth projections based on relevant data (e.g. local economic forecasts, population projections).
  6. Strategy and Implementation: This will include details on how the school/society plans to engage its community, grow, develop and mitigate potential
  7. Financial Plan: Draft budgets projecting three year financial statements consisting of revenues and expenses, cash flow and financial positions. Alberta Education provides a robust Excel template to complete this expectation as part of the application package.