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Open Choice Lottery Shuts Some Out Of Their Neighborhood Schools


May 11, 2009

The board of education has run its first Open Choice lottery, and not every student who applied to a neighborhood school was placed there.

The school district repeatedly said the scenario would not happen.

Maritza Pagan said she was shocked to find out that her 4-year-old son, Justin, was not accepted into the kindergarten class at Naylor Elementary School next year. Pagan lives blocks away from the school, and her other son, Jovany, is already a student there. Those are the two "preference" points that district officials said would guarantee students seats in their neighborhood schools.

But after accepting 34 Naylor preschool students into the kindergarten, there were only 12 seats left for neighborhood applicants, district spokesman David Medina said.

"In some places, this is the way it plays out," Medina said. "Naylor is a high-demand school."

Pagan handed in her application on time, and Justin was enrolled in the preschool program until the school began charging parents mid-way into the school year. But it didn't make a difference because so many neighborhood students also applied for kindergarten.

"I'm really, really upset about it," Pagan said. "I would think the choice program would be OK if I didn't want him to go to Naylor. Then I have the choice to send him somewhere else."

Pagan never imagined the program would prohibit her from sending Justin to his neighborhood school. District officials said all they can do for Pagan now is put Justin on a waiting list for Naylor and try to place him in another school.

To further complicate the situation, Naylor was named the first public elementary school in Hartford to take suburban students to help with court-ordered desegregation goals. That means the school is making room for up to 30 more students from out of the district, including a handful of spots in the kindergarten.

Christopher Leone, the Hartford administrator in the Regional School Choice Office, stressed that the school hasn't reduced the number of Hartford students it takes to make room for the suburban students.

Naylor's principal, Robert Travaglini, said it's frustrating to see neighborhood students turned away from the school. But he said more spots may open over the next couple of months, as students find out about magnet school placements or make final decisions on where they want to go.

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
| Last update: September 25, 2012 |
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