Facebook Twitter
Parents and students lined up to learn more about their high school options at an informational fair in 2016.

Parents and students lined up to learn more about their high school options at an informational fair in 2016.

Still waiting in New York City: As lawsuit drags on, high school admissions offers are delayed

Today was supposed to be the day that high school admissions offers would land in the inboxes of anxious students.

But they’re still waiting to learn where they’ve been accepted for the next school year, dragging out what is already often a stressful process for many families.

Causing the delay: a lawsuit challenging city efforts to integrate its most coveted high schools on the grounds that proposed admissions changes violate the rights of Asian students.

The education department won’t say when offers will go out — only that it won’t be this week, as originally planned. The letters will be sent sometime in March, spokesman Doug Cohen said. He added that a recent appeal in the legal case will not affect the city’s timeline.

In court records, city lawyers have said the latest target date to send offers is March 18. That would give families just a few days to plan for open houses and, for those who aren’t satisfied with their offer, set off an abbreviated search for round two options. Families will receive a few days’ notice of when they can expect to see their child’s offer, in line with past years, Cohen said.

Every development in the legal challenge has added extra uncertainty to an already complicated process said Robin Broshi, the mother of an eighth-grader in District 2. Broshi said she supports efforts to make the city’s specialized high schools more diverse, but the city has done a poor job of sharing details about their plans that she says parents want to hear.

“That adds to the anxiety,” she said. “I want to defend it. How can I defend it if I don’t know what I’m talking about?”

This year, parents also had to contend with a new online system for applying to schools, and the city extended the deadline amid technical snafus with the site.

In New York City, families must apply to their choice of high schools and rank their preferences; students are then matched by an algorithm. This year, there are some 80,000 applicants and 800 different schools and programs from which to choose. Critics have blamed the process for fueling segregation, requiring parents to invest time and resources to navigate the process and setting competitive admissions standards for students.

Takiema Bunche Smith, the mother of eighth-grader in District 15, called the process “traumatizing” and “exhausting.”

“It just feels very convoluted, and unnecessarily complex, and anxiety producing,” she said.

The city ran into admissions delays after parents and community organizations filed suit in December to halt admissions changes at specialized high schools, considered by many to be the Ivy League of public high school options.

Currently, admissions to the schools are determined by a single test. Asian students make up 62 percent of enrollment at the specialized high schools and 16 percent of students citywide. By contrast, only 10 percent of students at the elite schools are black and Hispanic — though those students make up almost 70 percent of enrollment citywide.

To help spur integration, Mayor Bill de Blasio has proposed expanding the Discovery program, which offers admission to the specialized high schools to students who scored just below the entry test cut off. The city also wants to change who qualifies for the program to target the “most disadvantaged” students. Asian parents say the changes unfairly exclude their children.

Last week, a judge ruled that the city can move forward with its integration proposal while the case winds its way through court — though that decision is being appealed.