An "unidentified internal error" in enrolling transfer students in Chicago has ended with Chicago Public Schools telling hundreds of families that their children had been accepted for a seat in the exceptional North Side school this week when, in fact, they had not.
LaSalle Elementary magnet school campus, located in the Old Town neighborhood, had only 16 spots available, but CPS sent 512 acceptance letters to families who had applied for LaSalle's first through eighth grades.
"When the error was discovered, CPS immediately called and emailed all families that received an incorrect notification," CPS spokesman Michael Passman said in a statement. "District staff is working with families individually to help identify alternate options for their children."
The mistake is just another frustration that relates to gaining access to Chicago's selective public school programs. The struggle has created a pressure cooker environment for parents.
The Chicago Tribune's Juan Perez, Jr. reports that Wendy Donahue, a resident of the Old Town neighborhood and a former Tribune editor and reporter, said the process is bewildering. Her nine-year-old daughter's offer to attend LaSalle was withdrawn.
Donahue said her daughter was already in a private school that her daughter and the family liked, but, she added, the process is embittering.
CPS officials say they are calling all the families that have been affected. But the parents' options can be complicated now since many have already rejected offers from other schools. CPS said it would explore options for and with parents to have some of the offers reinstated.
CPS Admissions Official Kathryn Ellis explained in an email to the affected families:
"The application and enrollment process is an emotional time for many families, and I want to assure you that we will work individually with your family to make sure you understand your options."
Kindergarten acceptances for LaSalle were not going to be affected by the mistake, and LaSalle was the only school where these errors occurred.
Applicants for admission to LaSalle are chosen through a computerized lottery, with priority given to those who have siblings at the school already. Forty percent of the remaining spots are awarded to families who live in a 1.5 miles radius of the school.
The disappointment of having students' applications rescinded is magnified by the fact that LaSalle is CPS's top-rated school. At LaSalle, children can take nine years of Italian, Spanish, Mandarin Chinese, or French. The school's capacity is approximately 550.
Another parent, Stacy Davis Gates, called the whole process "insane." Her seven-year-old son was put on wait-lists for all other schools because his neighborhood school was overcrowded, and now that his LaSalle acceptance has been rescinded, his mom says they are out of alternatives.
To add insult to injury, the letters were delayed by a few days because of the furlough day last week and the preparation for the one-day strike on April 1st, reports Lauren Fitzpatrick of the Chicago Sun-Times.
LaSalle's student body is 30% black, 20% Hispanic, and 8% Asian. Approximately 30% of the students are low-income. The school has a relatively new principal, Beth Bazer, who took the job after longtime Principal Elizabeth Heurtefeu left the Chicago Public School system in May 2015 and criticized the district for over-testing Chicago's students, according to DNAinfo's Ariel Cheung and Mina Bloom.