What is a Charter School?

Charter schools are public schools operating under a performance contract or “charter.” The charter allows the school to operate under defined rules and regulations. As part of the contract between the charter school and the sponsor (Polk County Public Schools), charter schools are held accountable for academic and financial results.

Purpose of a Charter School

Charter schools are independent public schools, which are fiscally and academically accountable to the sponsoring school system, but exempt from the district and most state statutes. The schools also have control over 95 percent of the student funds generated through student enrollment. This freedom is intended to allow charter schools to be more innovative, demonstrate better student performance, and make the local school the agent of change for the students the school serves.

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Types of Charter Schools

  • Start-up charter schools: Start-up charter schools are educational institutions that did not exist prior to being granted charter school status. These schools are often started by parents, community members, business partners, etc. These schools may offer a specialized curriculum or serve a specific student population, such as at-risk students or special needs students.
  • Conversion charter schools: A conversion charter school is an existing public school that converts to charter school status. This process requires agreement from the teachers and parents of the charter school, the submission of a charter application that is subsequently approved by the sponsor, and the negotiation of a charter contract. Final approval of a charter contract is voted on by the School Board after a public hearing.

Potential Charter Applicants

The School Board of Polk County, Florida, pursuant to Florida Statutes 1002.33, 1001.41, establishes charter schools for the following purposes:

  • to improve student learning and academic achievement
  • to increase learning opportunities for all students with special emphasis on low-performing students and reading
  • to encourage the use of innovative learning methods
  • to increase choices of learning opportunities for students
  • to establish a new form of accountability for schools
  • to require the measurement of learning outcomes and create innovative measurement tools
  • and to create new professional opportunities for teachers

New Charter Application Orientation

Thursday November 14, 2019 from 1 pm – 4 pm

The School Board of Polk County
1915 S. Floral Ave, Bartow, Florida 33830

Requirements for Charter School Application Submission

Each charter applicant must complete a Polk County Needs Assessment and include with the charter application.

  • Statement of Need:
    1. Why is there a need for this type of charter school?
    2. Explain why the charter school model is an appropriate vehicle to address this need

Explanation:  Provide recognition of potential opportunities to improve service and expand choices for students and parents.

  • School Demographics:
    1. Describe the community or region where the school will be located.
    2. Why was this location selected? Are there other locations suitable to the needs and focus of the school?
    3. Describe any unique demographic characteristics of the student population to be served, including primary languages spoken.

Explanation: Provide a description of the students to be served and the community in which the school will be located.

  • District Relations/Evidence of Support:
    1. What efforts will be implemented to maintain a collaborative relationship with school districts?
    2. Convey the scope of community backing for the proposed charter school and its founding coalition.

Explanation: Document efforts to foster open communications with local school districts; evidence that the founders inspire the confidence of their targeted community; evidence that the program provides an attractive educational alternative to students and parents, and evidence that the breadth of community support extends beyond the core group of founders.

A letter of intent to file an application should be submitted to The School Board of Polk County- Office of Charter Schools. The letter of intent should include the school name, school mission and vision, student population and grade levels, estimated school year for opening,  and location of the proposed school. Also, provide the name, telephone and email address for the application contact person.

Deadline: Tuesday, December 13, 2019, by 4:00 p.m.

Location: Jim Miles Professional Development Center,

Attn: Office of Charter Schools,
4270 Wallace Rd.,
Lakeland, Fl 33812.

Florida State Statutes on Charter Applications

f.s. 1002.33(6)(b)

“…A sponsor shall receive and consider charter school applications received on or before August 1 of each calendar year for charter schools to be opened at the beginning of the school district’s next school year… A sponsor may receive applications later than August 1 if it chooses.”

Charter Application Submission Location and Deadline


Monday, February 3rd, 2020, by 4:00 p.m.


Polk County School Board – Office of Charter Schools
1915 S. Floral Avenue,
Bartow, FL 33830