Membership Process

Preliminary Criteria

A school interested in becoming a member of VAIS must provide the following:

  • A clearly stated mission and philosophy
  • Non-discriminatory policies and practices in admissions, employment and all other aspects of school operation as provided by law
  • Incorporation as a not-for-profit and tax-exempt organization under IRS ruling
  • Governance by an independent Board of Trustees
  • An academic program spanning at least three successive grades, with an early childhood program counting as one grade
  • Academic integrity: i.e., academic freedom, freedom of promoting diversity in teaching approaches and curricular choices, and freedom from restricting teachers to any single dogma
  • Operating experience of at least three consecutive years by the time of application for Candidacy and five consecutive years by the time of Initial Accreditation
  • Willingness to meet the accrediting Standards of the Virginia Association of Independent Schools (VAIS)

Before proceeding, please review the VAIS Definition of Independence and the Accreditation Visit Cycle. We welcome you to contact Lelia Grinnan, Director of Accreditation for further discussion. If you are ready to become a VAIS member, please submit this interest form

Introductory Visit

Once the application file is complete and application fee is received, an Introductory Visit to the school will be conducted with the Executive Director, Director of Accreditation and a representative of the Accreditation Committee. The purpose of this visit is to become better acquainted with the applicant school and, in turn, for the school to become more familiar with the purposes of the Association, the requirements for membership, and the evaluation process in its entirety.

The VAIS Accreditation Committee meets several times a year and will review the application for membership and the supporting materials in advance of its next meeting following the Introductory Visit. At this time the Accreditation Committee also will welcome the Head of School and Board Chair to make a presentation and to field questions. Considering all levels of input, the Accreditation Committee will make its recommendation to the VAIS Board of Directors. The Board of Directors will render its decision at its next meeting. If accepted as a Candidate, the School must move through the process towards Full Accreditation within two to five years from the date of acceptance as a Candidate School. The timeline will be mutually agreed upon by the school and the Association.


Upon acceptance as a Candidate for Membership, the Chair of the School’s Steering Committee and, if possible, the Head of School and other school representatives as appropriate, should attend the required accreditation workshop for schools beginning the self-study process. The process includes the creation of a narrative report, submission of documentation as evidence of compliance with VAIS Standards for Membership, a published curriculum, and two additional visits--the Preliminary Visit (half day) and the Initial Visit (four days).

At the conclusion of the Initial Visit, the VAIS Accreditation Committee will review the report of the Visiting Team, vote on the VAIS Standards for Membership, and hear from the Chair of the Visiting Team. The Accreditation Committee will forward its recommendation to the VAIS Board of Directors for its action. The Board may grant a Candidate School full accreditation, provisional accreditation, or deny accreditation. If denied accreditation, the Candidate School may re-apply for membership no earlier than three years after denial or at such time specified by the Board of Directors.