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Letters saying kids had won coveted seats at selective Chicago preschools sent by mistake

Acceptance letters to CPS Montessori preschools were sent by mistake
Acceptance letters to CPS Montessori preschools were sent by mistake 02:08

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Around 100 families said they were overjoyed to find out their kids were accepted into highly-competitive Chicago Public Schools preschool programs.

But they were only to learn later that the offers were sent by mistake.

Leslie and Tim Arnold applied for their daughter to attend preschool at CPS' Drummond Montessori Magnet School in Bucktown.

"We had applied, and Drummond was our first choice," said Leslie Arnold.

Drummond Montessori, 1845 W. Cortland St., was described by the Chicago Tribune in 2008 as "harder to get into than Harvard."

Families are enrolled in the coveted school through a lottery system.

"We'd received a notification that we were accepted to Drummond – got very, very excited," said Leslie Arnold.

Their daughter was in – or so they thought.

"They had sent out a notice that essentially, offers were rescinded - as they made a mistake," said Tim Arnold.

CPS said a system error incorrectly offered about 100 spots. The error impacted both Drummond and Suder Montessori Magnet School, at 2022 W. Washington Blvd. on the Near West Side.

"Obviously, I cried," said Leslie Arnold. "To get that news after you'd been so excited - and just to be dropped down."

CPS apologized for the error, saying in part: "A manual step was missed for the final stage of the admission process (the point when the system makes/shares offers live) that erroneously showed empty seats when the seats were actually full, which caused our system to make the additional offers to students."

"What's more frustrating is the lack of transparency in the whole system, and that they don't try to actually correct it," said Tim Arnold. "They just kind of took everyone back through the funnel and said, 'Well, you can try again.'"

The Arnolds were placed back on the waitlist for Drummond and encouraged to apply to other schools with openings.

"Those 100 families should have been their first priority, and they weren't," said Leslie Arnold.

If space does become available at Drummond or Suder Montessori, CPS said it will prioritize all the impacted families for seats.

The Arnold family said they did not get into any of their top five school picks for next year. 

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