What is a Charter School?


A public charter school is a publicly funded school that is typically governed by a group or organization under a legislative contract—a charter—with the district, Hamilton County Schools. The charter exempts the school from certain state or local rules and regulations. In return for flexibility and autonomy, the charter school must meet the accountability standards outlined in its charter. A school’s charter is reviewed periodically by HCS and can be revoked if guidelines on curriculum and management are not followed or if the accountability standards are not met. Applications for new charter schools can be made annually. There is a state defined process for applying and the Hamilton County school board members vote to approve or deny the application. This page contains information for current charter schools, applying charter schools, and parents seeking school choice options.

State Reports Annual Authorizer Report 2021

Annual Authorizer Report 2022

                                           Annual Authorizer Report 2023



HCS Charter School Authorizer Mission Statement
The HCS Charter Schools Office will practice rigorous charter school authorization, provide meaningful support, and protect school choice in order to uphold high academic standards, create fair and equitable opportunities, and improve outcomes for students and families in Hamilton County.


Information for Parents

Charter Schools in Hamilton County

Chattanooga Charter School of Excellence


grades K-5

Middle School

grades 6-8

High School 

grades 9-10
expanding to 9-12

Chattanooga Girls' Leadership Academy
Girls grades 6-12

Chattanooga Preparatory School
Boys grades 6-11
expanding to 6-12

Ivy Academy
grades 6-12

Ivy Academy's Skillern Elementary 
expanding to K-5

Montessori Elementary at Highland Park 
grades PreK-4 
expanding to K-5

How do I apply for a Charter School?

  • Chattanooga Girls Leadership Academy (CGLA), Chattanooga Prep School (CPS), and the Montessori Elementary at Highland Park - apply directly with those schools. These charter schools will have their own, separate application procedures and timeline.
  • Ivy Academy, Ivy Academy’s Skillern Elementary, and Chattanooga Charter Schools of Excellence: Elementary, Middle School, and High School - apply through the HCS School Choice Application.

Application, Selection, and Admissions Processes for Charter Schools using the HCS Choice Lottery Application.

  • Admission to Choice Schools/programs is on a space-available basis through the application. The application period runs annually from mid-November through January 31. Seats will be first filled by those applications received during the official application period. Applications may be filled out online at www.hcde.org/choosehamilton

  • Charter seats are not available to Out of County or Out of State families unless there is no waitlist in the grade level desired.

  • In the event there are more applicants than available seats, a lottery will be used to assign students a seat number according to their choice(s) indicated on their application. Any further openings are filled first from the waitlist. Waitlists expire on the first day of school of each school year and are not carried over to future years.

  • Incomplete applications will not be processed. Falsifying any information on the choice lottery application automatically disqualifies the application. Duplicate applications will be voided.

  • Placement to any Charter school is not confirmed until the parents/guardians accept the offered seat within 7 business days of the offer.

  • If a student applies and is accepted to more than one choice school placement, the student can only accept one choice seat. They will forfeit the other seat(s) and the seat(s) will be offered to the next student on the waitlist.

  • Once admitted to the desired choice school, the student must remain at the school for the entire school year unless a Zero Tolerance offense occurs. Any other requests for a transfer during the school year must be approved by the Chief of Opportunity & Access or their designee.

Sibling Preference at Charter Schools

Definition of sibling for preference at Charter Schools - brother, sister, half-brother, half-sister, stepbrother, or stepsister of a student currently enrolled at applying Charter and resides at the same address as the currently enrolled student. This does NOT include aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces, nephews, etc. In cases involving joint custody, legal documentation is required.

Sibling Status: If space is available and a choice lottery application has been completed, siblings are accepted into the Charter school in which their brother or sister currently attends. 

  • The sibling preference is not considered until the currently enrolled student has been at a Charter school for one year and both the student and the parent(s) have successfully met the school’s requirements.

Multiple Births: If during the lottery, one twin or triplet is drawn and receives a seat, then the other sibling(s) will have an automatic entrance for that year.


There are no deferrals for Charter Schools. If you decline the seat offer your student will be removed from that school’s list.

Student Status for Choice Lottery

Charter families are expected to remain at that school for the entire school year. If a family desires to leave a Charter School during the school year, an appeal with the Charter School and Charter School Coordinator must take place. If the appeal is approved, the student will enroll with their zone school and may reapply for School Choice during the appropriate windows with HCS.

Student athletes who transfer from a zone or any School Choice option to another zone will fall under the TSSAA and TMSSA transfer guidelines if their Charter is a member.

Transportation for Charter School Students

Transportation is provided by each of the individual Charter Schools. Specific information about bus routes can be obtained from the charter school.

Current Charter School Families
Complaints or concerns about HCS Charter Schools may be made to the Charter Schools Coordinator at 498-6569.
In cases of student discipline, the family will follow the Charter School's appeal process (principal, CEO, charter board of directors). After following these steps, if a family is concerned the final outcome was not legal, fair or equitable, a grievance can be made to the HCS Office of Equity.

Information for Prospective Charter Operators

HCS New Charter Application Guidance

TDOE Application Guidance and Forms