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603 CMR 52.00
Commonwealth of Massachusetts Virtual Schools

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52.04: Applications for and Granting of Certificates

(1) Commonwealth of Massachusetts virtual school Application Process. Applicants shall submit to the Department application materials in accordance with the schedule, application form, and guidelines established by the Department. Applications for Commonwealth of Massachusetts virtual schools must be submitted by the deadline established by the Department to be considered. The application must address the requirements in M.G.L. c. 71 § 94(b), as well as other criteria required by the application.

(2) Review Process. The Department shall review application materials submitted in accordance with established deadlines. The role of any reviewer is solely advisory. Application materials will be reviewed and evaluated in accordance with criteria outlined in 603 CMR 52.05 and in the application itself. The Department will hold a public hearing, solicit public comments, and conduct interviews with all applicants in order to better assess their qualifications and capacity to start and operate a Commonwealth of Massachusetts virtual school.

(3) Evaluation and Approval of Applications. The Department reviews applications to ensure that the applicant has, at a minimum, demonstrated the ability:

(a) to address all of the requirements included in M.G.L. c. 71, § 94, including the identification of educational programs identified in the statute;
(b) to conform with M.G.L. c. 71, § 94, and all other applicable laws and regulations including, but not limited to, those related to English learners and students with disabilities and any guidelines issued by the Department;
(c) to meet its enrollment projections through demonstration of support for the proposed Commonwealth of Massachusetts virtual school;
(d) to develop a management structure and plan which enables the virtual school to achieve its goals and mission, including information about proposed board members and the selection, roles, and responsibilities of the board of trustees;
(e) to develop bylaws that govern the board of trustees consistent with M.G.L. c. 71, § 94, 603 CMR 52.00, and guidelines issued by the Department;
(f) to assure that students will meet the same performance standards and assessment requirements set by the Board for students in other public schools;
(g) to involve parents and guardians as partners in the education of their children;
(h) to establish a method for tracking student learning time that is acceptable to the Department or, if a waiver of those requirements is requested, a rigorous competency based model;
(i) to develop an accountability plan that meets criteria established by the Department, setting specific performance objectives to measure the virtual school's progress and success in raising student achievement, establishing a viable organization, and fulfilling the terms of its certificate;
(j) to administer its educational programs, school operations, and finances effectively;
(k) to develop a professional development plan for all online teachers, such professional development shall be consistent with the Massachusetts Standards for Professional Development;
(l) to develop an online learning experience for enrolled students to better prepare them to be a successful online learner; and
(m) to establish a process to provide to students, parents and guardians, the Board, other interested parties, and the public all information required by law and regulation, as well as to provide other information the Board may request.

If a certificate is granted, the drafts of documents submitted during the application process are subject to Department review and approval during the opening procedures process and must meet the additional requirements in 603 CMR 52.04.

(4) Granting of Certificates. The Board shall grant certificates to boards of trustees under M.G.L. c. 71 § 94, with such conditions as the Board specifies.

(a) A certificate granted by the Board shall be effective for three to five years, beginning July 1st of the first fiscal year in which the virtual school enrolls students, unless revoked pursuant to M.G.L. c. 71 § 94 and 603 CMR 52.12. If no students are attending a Commonwealth of Massachusetts virtual school within 19 months from the date the certificate was granted, the certificate will be null and void, unless an extension is granted by the Commissioner.
(b) Should the Board elect to award fewer than the number of certificates specified under M.G.L. c. 71 § 94, in any given cycle, the Board may grant those certificates not awarded in subsequent application cycles in addition to the number of certificates scheduled to be awarded and notwithstanding any limitations on the number of new certificates authorized in such year.
(c) The Board may award any certificate revoked or returned to the Board in subsequent application cycles in addition to the number of certificates scheduled to be awarded and notwithstanding any limitations on the number of new certificates authorized in such year.
(d) Private and parochial schools shall not be eligible for status as a Commonwealth of Massachusetts virtual school. If members of an applicant group are on the governing board or management of a private or parochial school that plans to close or closes around the time of seeking a certificate, it creates a rebuttable presumption that the private or parochial school seeks a certificate for the purpose of securing public funding. To rebut this presumption, the applicant group must establish facts sufficient for the Department to determine that funding is not the primary reason they are seeking a certificate while the private or parochial school is closing. In making a determination, the Department will compare the governance, management, and other characteristics of the private or parochial school and the governance, management, and other characteristics of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts virtual school, including but not limited to curriculum, student body, staff, leadership, location, and the financial plan for the virtual school.

(5) Conditions for Opening New Commonwealth of Massachusetts Virtual Schools. Certificates shall be awarded subject to the conditions listed in 603 CMR 52.04, and any additional conditions that the Board or Department may specify. The Board may temporarily waive such conditions and award a certificate, provided that the applicant submits adequate written assurance that all such conditions will be met prior to the opening of the virtual school. If a new virtual school fails to comply with any specified condition prior to the opening of the virtual school, the Commissioner may prohibit the virtual school from opening.

Upon receiving a certificate, the virtual school must successfully complete the opening procedures process specified by the Department. This process begins with the awarding of a new certificate by the Board and ends in the following June when the virtual school submits a draft Accountability Plan to the Department. Opening procedures requirements include, but are not limited to, the following:

(a) the terms of the proposed contract, in such cases where the virtual school's board of trustees intends to procure substantially all educational services from another person or organization, the board of trustees shall submit for the Commissioner's approval the terms of the contract;
(b) approved bylaws;
(c) criteria and procedures for suspension and expulsion of students;
(d) written documentation that a criminal background checks haves been performed as required by state law on all employees and volunteers; and
(e) written documentation of the virtual school's compliance with state and federal laws, including, but not limited to, all fire, health, and safety laws and accessibility requirements for facilities owned or leased by or for the virtual school.

(6) Information for Distribution of Public Funds. Upon receiving a certificate, a Commonwealth of Massachusetts virtual school shall provide the Department with a federal tax identification number issued solely to the virtual school, and banking information regarding a bank account solely in the name of the virtual school, as required by the State Treasurer for the transfer of public funds.

Last Updated: July 10, 2014
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