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After Lab School admissions error, NYC officials remove deadline to accept offers but still face questions from parent council

Eighth-grade students at M.S. 244 in the Bronx receive their high school admission letters in 2016.
Eighth-grade students at M.S. 244 in the Bronx receive their high school admission letters in 2016.
Stephanie Snyder/Chalkbeat

The education department said Wednesday it won’t impose a deadline to accept an offer on the 144 students who recently discovered they got into sought-after Lab High School for Collaborative Studies after originally not being matched there.

Responding to a Tuesday letter from District 2’s Community Education Council, department officials said they will now work “as long as [families and students] need” to decide whether they want to attend Lab.

In an admissions mishap revealed Tuesday, students were mistakenly denied an offer because of a ranking error the school made, officials said. After the mistake was discovered, the students were originally given until this Friday to decide if they wanted to attend.

The department’s response to the CEC — which includes agreeing to help arrange a community forum for families — comes after the parent council asked for an extension on the acceptance deadline. In their letter, parent leaders also pressed for more answers about what caused the error and to other questions about the snafu that could influence students’ decisions.

The education department informed affected families about the error over the last week, with many families getting a phone call on Monday.

In its letter, the CEC asked enrollment officials to share when and how the errors were discovered and why families found out only after they had to accept offers to other high schools.

The department did not answer any of those questions, or other specific questions from Chalkbeat, including how many students originally received an offer from the Lab school. Officials projected Lab’s freshman class next school year will have 185 students, given that, typically in past years, about 56 percent of offers to general education students are accepted at Lab, while 63 percent of offers to students with disabilities are accepted.

That’s still significantly more students than the 120 that make up the average class size now at Lab, according to the education department’s website.

Robin Broshi, president of the CEC, said parents have specific questions about whether their children should attend, such as the department’s exact plan for how to support the school contending with a larger than usual incoming class. Broshi said the CEC is sticking to its plans to hold a community forum on April 17, as proposed in its letter to education officials, to “surface community concerns about how the match was done,” though they’re still deciding on a place and time.

“NYC Lab school is working closely with Superintendent Vivian Orlen and her team to ensure school planning that supports all admitted students who choose to enroll there,” the department’s response said, adding that the school could accommodate up to 200 students in the freshman class.

The department’s only explanation for the flawed offers is that the school “made an error in their evaluation of applicants and ranking process,” which the department then used to match students, the letter said.

Parent leaders also asked how the department would handle “newly opened spots” at schools that the 144 students could potentially leave open if they choose to attend the Lab school instead. As it did on Tuesday, the department said there are no “open” seats at other District 2 high schools that would not be available in the second round of admissions, “even with this ranking error.”

“This does not impact offers at other schools because there was a small enough number of students assigned to any one school who have now received offers to Lab,” officials said, noting that “historical attrition and enrollment patterns” were already accounted for in the round one offers now completed.

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