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2002 Opinions

Date:   July 23, 2002
Prepared By:   Charles Murphy
Phone:   (850) 488-7707
Suncom:   278-7707
Opinion No.:   02-08
Staff Contact:   John Hamrick
MEMORANDUM OPINION
TO: Jerry Martin, Bureau Chief
Educational Facilities
FROM: Daniel Woodring, General Counsel
SUBJECT: Legal Opinion - Charter School Code Election
RE: Discussions regarding charter school code election

QUESTION: Does the charter school building code election established by Section 228.056(17)(a), Florida Statutes, survive the implementation of the Florida Building Code?

CONCLUSION: Yes.

DISCUSSION: Section 228.056(17)(a), F.S., requires that charter school facilities must comply with either the State Uniform Building Code for Public Educational Facilities Construction or with applicable state minimum building codes pursuant to Chapter 553 and state minimum fire protection codes pursuant to Section 633.025, F.S., as adopted by the authority in whose jurisdiction the facility is located. The State Uniform Code for Public Educational Facilities Construction was implemented by Rule 6-2.001, Florida Administrative Code, which adopted the State Requirements for Educational Facilities (“SREF”). The Department has interpreted Section 228.056(17)(a), F.S., to mean that, if a charter school facility is owned or leased by the school district, SREF must apply, but that charter school facilities that are owned or leased by entities other than school districts may appropriately be constructed either to SREF or to non-SREF standards.

Section 228.056(17)(c), F.S., makes charter schools subject to the Florida Building Code. The inclusion of Chapter 7 of SREF, which governs new construction, as Section 423 of the Florida Building Code, coupled with the statutory language found at Section 228.056(17)(c), has raised questions about the status of the code election provision in Section 228.056(17)(a).

Reading subsections (17)(a) and (17)(c) to give meaning to both, it appears that, by creating subsection (17)(c), the legislature was acknowledging the adoption of the new Florida Building Code and Fire Prevention Code while preserving the option of a charter school to choose whether it is subject to SREF provisions within the Florida Building Code. In terms of the Florida Building Code itself, this translates into whether the school will be constructed to Section 306 Educational Occupancy--Group E standards including Section 423 or excluding Section 423.

The code election option was preserved by the legislature in the new School Code (Chapter 2002-387, Laws of Florida). At section 98, the legislature created Section 1002.33(19)(a), F.S., to provide that a “charter school shall utilize facilities which comply with the State Uniform Building Code for Public Educational Facilities Construction adopted pursuant to s. 1013.37 or with applicable state minimum building codes pursuant to chapter 553 and state minimum fire protection codes pursuant to s. 633.025, as adopted by the authority in whose jurisdiction the facility is located.” (emphasis supplied). Section 1013.37(1), F.S., requires the Florida Building Commission to adopt a uniform statewide building code for the planning and construction of public educational plants by district school boards.

Reading Section 228.056(17) in conjunction with the recent enactment of the legislature to be codified at Section 1002.33(19)(a), it appears that the code election option for charter schools is still in place and charter schools can elect to be constructed by the Florida Building Code including Section 423 or by the Florida Building Code excluding Section 423.


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