Nearly 500 Chicago Public Schools students were mistakenly sent acceptance letters for highly coveted spots in a magnet school, the district said Tuesday.
CPS said only 16 letters should have gone out to transfer students at LaSalle Language Academy, but instead, 512 letters were distributed.
"Due to an error in assigning transfer students to LaSalle Magnet School, CPS inadvertently offered more seats to students than LaSalle had available," CPS spokesman Michael Passman said in a statement. "When the error was discovered, CPS immediately called and emailed all families that received an incorrect notification, and District staff is working with families individually to help identify alternate options for their children."
The letters were sent to students from first grade through eighth grade. No other schools were impacted by the error, district officials said.
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Shortly after the letters were sent out, parents reported receiving another letter saying the acceptance letters were a mistake.
"According to our records, your child received an offer for LaSalle Magnet Schools for the 2016-17 school year," the second letter says. "Unfortunately due to an error in assigning transfer students LaSalle, CPS discovered that LaSalle does not have enough available seats for the number of offers that were made. As a result of this error, your child’s status for LaSalle has changed."
The letters apologize for the error and say officials will work with affected parents to make sure they understand their options.
Danielle Nix, a mother of three, is one of those parents.
She said she sacrificed so her children could attend St. Sabina Academy, a private Catholic school in Chicago, because sending her children to their neighborhood school on the South Side "was not an option."
But once her son was accepted into Mount Carmel High School, where tuition is significantly higher, she could no longer afford to send her younger daughter and son to St. Sabina.
Nix said she entered the CPS lottery after nine months of research and was overjoyed when she learned both of her kids had been accepted to LaSalle.
"I freaked because I couldn't believe that... they both got accepted and that I got accepted into our first choice school," she said. "LaSalle is a school that I watched for a long time and knew the reputation it had. And knowing my kids, I just knew this was going to be a perfect fit."
But she was devastated to learn the acceptance letter was sent out by mistake.
"[The kids] were so excited they got in and now I have to go back and say, 'Hey, you didn't get in. You didn't get in and it's not your fault. It's through no fault of your own,'" she said. "When they want to know what happens now, I don't have an answer for them. And that's devastating."
CPS has faced a series of budget cuts and layoffs amid a historic state budget impasse and struggling finances within the district. Teachers, who are still in contract talks with district officials, held a one-day strike to address the budget woes last week.