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Guidelines for Establishing a Community Day School

The general guidelines for establishing a community day school include Checklist, Assignment of Students, Minimum School Day, Approval of Attendance Accounting, Location, Facilities, and Countywide Plan.

The governing board of a school district is authorized to establish one or more community day schools (CDS) (California Education Code [EC] Section 48660). County offices of education are considered school districts for purposes of establishing and operating CDS (EC Section 48667[a]).

A district establishing a CDS should apply for a county-district-school code. Forms and information about this process can be obtained at Schools and Districts or by calling 916-327-4014.

Checklist for Establishing a Community Day School

  • Put together a planning team; include students as team members.
  • Review Law for Community Day Schools.
  • Determine eligible students and procedures for assignment to the CDS (EC Section 48662[b]).
  • Identify the grade span for the CDS (EC Section 48660).
  • Check the minimum-day requirements for the CDS (EC Section 48663).
  • Identify the site location of the CDS (EC Section 48661). For additional information about facilities, contact CDE School Facilities Planning Division at 916-322-2470.
  • The local board must vote to establish the CDS (EC Section 48660).
  • Adopt a policy that provides procedures for involuntary transfer to the CDS (local board action, EC Section 48662[a]).
  • Obtain CDE approval for the CDS attendance accounting systems. It is recommended that a daily schedule be available for review during the approval process. For approval contact Kim Clement, School Fiscal Services Division, at 916-327-0857 or by e-mail at
  • Establish statewide accountability for your CDS. Every school is subject to statewide accountability. CDS are held accountable through the Alternative Accountability System. To register your school in the Alternative Accountability System (ASAM), download the application from Schools Considering ASAM Participation.
  • Review funding opportunities and develop and adopt the CDS budget as distinct for that school, including full-time-equivalent personnel.
  • Develop community partnerships (e.g., services to students and families, resources, mentors).
  • Identify the staff and related positions (teaching, learning support, and administrative personnel).
  • Obtain district cooperation with county office of education, law enforcement, probation, and human services agencies working with at-risk youths (EC Section 48660.1).
  • Identify and outline the curriculum (academic, pro-social skills/resiliency/asset building, and school-to-career). See 40 Developmental Assets External link opens in new window or tab. as researched by the Search Institute.
  • Inform the county office of education of plans to establish the CDS and provide a copy of the program description to the county office for review (EC Section 48926, educational services for expelled pupils).
  • Submit the Core Elements for Describing a Community Day School to Dan Sackheim, community day school Consultant.
  • Establish a safe school/community environment that is physically and emotionally safe, well disciplined, and conducive to learning.
  • Review the General Waiver Authority to provide flexibility in a school. (EC sections 33050-33053)

Grade Spans of Community Day Schools

The allowable grade spans for a CDS as set forth in EC Section 48660 are as follows:

...A community day school may serve pupils in any of kindergarten and grades one to six, inclusive, or any of grades seven to twelve, inclusive, or the same or "lesser included range" of grades as may be found in any individual middle or junior high school operated by the district. If a school district is organized as a district that serves kindergarten and grades one to eight, inclusive, but no higher grades, the governing board of the school district may establish a community day school for any [of] kindergarten and grades one to eight, inclusive, upon a two-thirds vote of the board....

EC Section 48660 also states that it is the intent of the Legislature, that the governing board of a school district operating a CDS for any of kindergarten and grades one to eight, inclusive, separate younger pupils from older pupils within that school, to the extent possible.

Assignment of Students to a Community Day School

EC Section 48662 provides that the only students who may be assigned to a CDS are those who have been:

  • Expelled for any reason
  • Referred by probation pursuant to Welfare and Institutions Code Section 300 or 602
  • Referred to a CDS by a School Attendance Review Board (SARB) or other district-level referral process

EC Section 48662(b)(4) further specifies that, unless there is an agreement that the county superintendent of schools shall serve any of these categories of students, assignment of students to CDS shall be made in the following priority order:

  1. Students expelled for mandatory expulsion offenses (EC Section 48915[d])
  2. Students expelled for any other reasons
  3. All other students

Districts that establish CDS must adopt policies that provide procedures for the involuntary transfer of students to those schools (EC Section 48662). Such policies necessarily have to provide for appropriate due process.

EC Section 48916.1(a) provides that, at the time an expulsion of a student is ordered, the governing board of the school district shall ensure that an education program is provided to the student for the period of the expulsion. CDS were created to provide districts with an educational placement option for expelled students who previously could not be served within the district (those students expelled for any of the offenses listed in subdivision [a] or [c] of Section 48915).

The California Department of Education strongly encourages school districts to establish and operate schools and programs, including CDS, that provide appropriate services to those students who have a history of negative behavior. Doing so allows greater continuity with both previous and subsequent educational placements.

Minimum School Day

The minimum school day for CDS is 360 minutes of instructional time (EC Section 48663[a]). There is no option for a shorter day. Administrators should be aware of three key points:

  • The minimum-day requirement applies to every student enrolled in the CDS unless otherwise specified in a special education individualized education program (IEP).
  • The minimum-day requirement applies to every school day.
  • Since breaks, recess, and lunch are not considered instructional time, they do not count toward the minimum day.

Minimum Instructional Day Must Be Within the CDS

The minimum school day in a CDS is 360 minutes of classroom instruction. This requirement means the entire minimum school day must be provided within the CDS, in contrast with a partial assignment in another school or program. As with other schools, field trips are allowable.

Minimum Instructional Day Provided by a Certificated District Employee

The minimum school day in a CDS is 360 minutes of classroom instruction provided under the immediate supervision and control of a certificated employee of the district reporting the attendance of the pupils for apportionment funding (EC Section 46300[a]). A district cannot "contract out" this role.

Minimum Day for Students with Exceptional Needs

If a student with exceptional needs enrolls in a CDS and has an IEP that specifies a school day of less than six hours for the student, the day length specified in the student's IEP shall also be the student's "minimum day" consistent with the provisions of EC Section 46307, for purposes of calculating the student's average daily attendance for basic funding—but not for the purpose of claiming the supplemental funding described below. To generate credit for the supplemental funding, a student with exceptional needs must attend school for the same amount of time as any other student enrolled in a CDS.

No Instruction Through the Independent Study Strategy

Independent study may not be utilized as a means of providing any part of the minimum instructional day in a CDS (EC Section 48663[d]).

Approval of Attendance Accounting System

Community day school attendance must be maintained and reported in clock hours for each school day (EC sections 48663 and 48664). As stipulated on page 167 in the Attendance Accounting and Reporting in California Public Schools manual published by the CDE in 1991, school districts (including county offices of education that establish CDS) must individually obtain CDE approval for their attendance accounting systems. To request approval, each district should submit a copy of the attendance accounting system for its community day school to:

Kim Clement
School Fiscal Services Division
California Department of Education
1430 N Street, Suite 3800
Sacramento, CA 95814

Location of Community Day Schools

CDS are separate schools, not merely separate programs within schools, and are further intended to be located apart from other schools. The requirement for a separate location reflects the Legislature's priority that CDS be a placement option for expelled students who have been removed from other school settings.

EC Section 48661(1), (2), and (3) provides that a CDS may not be situated on the same site as an elementary, middle, junior high, comprehensive senior high, opportunity, or continuation school, except under the following circumstances:

When the governing board of a school district with 2,500 or fewer units of average daily attendance reported for the most recent second principal apportionment certifies by a two-thirds vote of its membership that satisfactory alternative facilities are not available for a CDS.

When the governing board of a school district that is organized as a district to serve kindergarten and grades one to eight, inclusive, but no higher grades, certifies by a two-thirds vote of its membership that satisfactory alternative facilities are not available for a CDS.

When the governing board of a school district that desires to operate a CDS to serve any of kindergarten and grades one to six, inclusive, but no higher grades, certifies by a two-thirds vote of its membership that satisfactory alternative facilities are not available for a CDS.

Consistent with the foregoing discussion, if a district establishes a CDS on the same site as another school, the district should make diligent efforts toward achieving maximum separation of the CDS. The findings justifying a local governing board's certification necessarily require a search of available facilities. This search should encompass both district-owned properties and other locations.

The governing board certifications required by EC Section 48661 are valid for not more than one school year, but they may be renewed annually by a two-thirds vote of the governing board after an updated search.


The laws governing the use of buildings and sites for CDS are complex. Key provisions include requirements pertaining to what are acceptable facilities for programs serving expelled students (including EC Section 17292.5) and to the lease of buildings for use as school buildings (including EC Section 17285). For information about these and other key provisions, as well as guidelines for site and facilities standards, such as site size and classroom size, contact the California Department of Education, School Facilities Planning Division, at 916-322-2470. For information about structural requirements for school facilities, contact the California Department of General Services, Division of the State Architect, at 916-445-8100.

Under provisions included in Senate Bill 50 (Chapter 407, Statutes of 1998, Greene), school districts and county offices of education may be eligible to apply to the Office of Public School Construction (OPSC) for funds for the acquisition of land and construction of new facilities for CDS. Information about these funds can be obtained by calling the Department of General Services, Office of Public School Construction, New School Facility Program, at 916-445-2704. Information is also available at the OPSC External link opens in new window or tab. .

Countywide Plans

The decision to establish CDS should be made within the larger context of the need to serve all expelled and other at-risk students in the school district and county.

CDS are an appropriate placement option for some, but not necessarily all, expelled students. They can also provide a structured and supervised environment for other students who have not been expelled but who would benefit from the preventive and rehabilitative emphases in these programs.

Each county superintendent of schools in a county that operates one or more county community schools, in conjunction with superintendents of the school districts within the county, must develop a plan for providing education services to all expelled students in that county (EC Section 48926). The required plans must, at a minimum, identify the following:

  • Existing educational alternatives for expelled students
  • Gaps in educational services to expelled students
  • Strategies for filling those service gaps
  • Alternative placements for students who are expelled and placed in CDS programs but who fail to meet the terms and conditions of their rehabilitation plan or who pose a danger to other district students, as determined by their governing boards

The first set of plans was required to be submitted to the State Superintendent of Public Instruction by June 1997. The most recent updates were submitted in 2015. However, district and county representatives are strongly encouraged to collaborate on amending their plan annually to ensure that it is comprehensive, up to date, and addresses educational placement options and support services for all expelled students. District and county personnel are also encouraged to collaborate in staff training and the identification of educational materials and service providers. For more information, see Countywide Plans for Expelled Students.

Questions: Dan Sackheim | | 916-445-5595 
Last Reviewed: Monday, November 16, 2015

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