District error sends parents into panic over school lottery


CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - A Charleston County School District error notified parents their children were not eligible for the lottery system at one of the district's top magnet schools.

The district says it mistakenly sent automated messages that sent parents scrambling for answers.

"Panic mode," parent Erin Copenhaver said of the situation. "If we miss the lottery, then we've missed the boat."

Parents submitted their child's application for the lottery at Buist to win a spot at the academy, but woke up to an email Wednesday morning stating their child wasn't eligible.

Nearly 500 students attend kindergarten through eighth grade at Buist. Because Buist is a county-wide magnet school, students across Charleston county are able to apply and attend.

Copenhaver hoped to win a spot for her son in the kindergarten lottery. The email notified her he might not get the chance.

"While we know it's a lottery process, to be told we aren't even eligible for the lottery, within days of when the lottery is supposed to occur, feels like we're blindsided," she said.

The district sent an email confirming his eligibility weeks ago, only to notify Copenhaver that he wasn't eligible after all, leaving her to ask why.

"Basically what they're telling us is because my child's birthday is two weeks before Sept 1. He absolutely has to enter first grade," she said.

But her son is only in Pre-K right now and not ready for first grade.

The family delayed his kindergarten admittance based on his current teacher recommendations and other factors.

"We're actually zoned for a failing school and our options are already limited," Copenhaver said. "This is taking away a very big part of our option."

Her daughter already attends Buist and Copenhaver hoped her son would join his sister. She says it's the timing of the news that's the worst part.

"It would have been a totally different situation if we'd known this weeks ago and had some time to ask some questions," she said. "Making the decision at the last minute gives us no opportunity to fight."

Copenhaver said late Wednesday she had not yet heard from the district directly since the error came to light.

However, district officials say updated messages will go out to affected parents Wednesday night explaining the error and confirming their child is still in the Buist lottery, which has yet to begin.

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