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Opening a Private or Nonpublic School

The Private Academic School Law,   Act 1988-11 (PDF), requires that "a private academic school operating in Pennsylvania shall obtain a license to do so, except colleges and universities, schools maintained or classes conducted by employers for their own employees where no fee or tuition is charged, schools or classes owned or operated by or under the authority of bona fide religious institutions or by the Commonwealth or any political subdivision thereof, schools for the blind or deaf receiving Commonwealth appropriations, or schools accredited by accrediting associations approved by the State Board of Education; however, such schools can choose to apply for licensure."

Licensing a Private Academic School

To apply for a license to conduct a private academic school, a school owner shall review and comply with the Regulations Governing the State Board of Private Academic Schools.  Upon review of the regulations, the Division of Planning requires that the education director and owner attend an in-service seminar held usually the first Tuesday of the month at 1:15 PM by the division staff.  The in-service is only held at the Department of Education in Harrisburg, PA and you must have a confirmation letter/email to attend this in-service. Please email ra-nppss@pa.gov to sign up.  At the time of your attendance, you will receive the licensure application. 

Please note that the Division does not mail the private academic licensure application.

After reviewing the fully completed application packet, a Division staff member will contact the owner or education director to schedule an onsite visit of the school, at which time staff will take measurements and pictures of the rooms.

Once the application is deemed complete the licensure application will be presented at a meeting of the State Board of Private Academic Schools, at which time the State Board of Private Academic Schools will approve or deny the application. The education director and teacher familiar with the proposed school will be requested to attend this meeting.  If the Board approves the application, the school shall receive an approval letter, and then the license to display in the school.

Private Academic License Renewal                  

A private academic school license is renewed annually on the anniversary date of the license.  The annual renewal fee is based on the enrollment and category of the license held by the school.  A renewal packet and invoice is submitted to the school's education director 60 days prior to the license expiration date.  The school owner and/or education director is responsible for submitting the renewal application and fee to the Division prior to the expiration date.  Upon confirmation of compliance, the renewal license will be issued. 

If the school is not compliant, the owner has 90 days to resolve the noncompliance issues.  Upon reaching the 90-day deadline, if the issues are not resolved, the renewal license is denied and the school has 10 days to appeal the denial.

Registering a Nonpublic/Non-licensed School

The Pennsylvania School Code, Section 13-Pupils & Attendance 24 P.S. 13-1327 requires a school that be owned or operated by or under the authority of a bona fide religious institution to be registered with the Department of Education by filing the notarized Affidavit/Certificate of Nonpublic Non-licensed Day School Operated by a Bona Fide Church or Other Religious Body in Pennsylvania (PDF).

A nursery/preschool owned or operated by or under the authority of a bona fide religious institution is exempt from registration since it is not a school age grade level school.  The school owner can, however, choose to apply for a private academic school license through the Pennsylvania Department of Education or a certificate of compliance to operate the nursery/preschool level through the Department of Human Services, Office of Child Development and Early Learning

Informational packets for constituents/owners who want to operate a nonpublic/non-licensed religious school under the Pennsylvania Department of Education can be obtained by contacting the Non-Public /Non-Licensed school area at ra-nppss@pa.gov.