By Julia Stern
At a District 3 Community Education Committee (CEC3) meeting earlier this month on Zoom, representatives from the Department of Education (DOE) described plans to expand sibling priority in middle school admissions in order to keep families together.
Present at the meeting were Superintendent Christine Loughlin, Chief Enrollment Officer Sarah Kleinhandler, Executive Director Amy Basile, and Senior Director of Middle School Admissions Matthew Broggini.
Mr. Broggini explained that before this new expansion, only applicants who were siblings of current sixth-graders would receive sibling priority. Now, at schools where the final year is eighth grade, the DOE has expanded priority to middle school applicants with siblings in sixth or seventh grade.
For schools that continue through twelfth grade, middle school applicants with siblings in grades six through eleventh now have priority.
Priority applies to full siblings, half-siblings, step-siblings and foster siblings residing in the same household as the applicant.
The new policy covers the current admissions cycle for the 2022-2023 school year.
During the Q&A portion of a meeting, one parent asked, “Are there insights about how prioritizing keeping middle school siblings together affects diversity and equity?”
Mr. Broggini said that exact data was not currently available, but eliminating screening criteria and relying on the lottery system has made schools better reflect the diversity of the district. He affirmed that the DOE remains committed to equitable practices, but did not provide data about whether sibling priority expansions would limit diversity.
Another parent worried that the new sibling-priority expansion would disadvantage children without siblings, and jokingly asked to create a support group for her only child navigating the admissions process. This parent also expressed frustration about the policy changing after applications for middle schools closed, as they were not aware of the new expansion during the application process.
The meeting ended with another parent describing how demoralizing this year of middle school admissions was. “It feels like The Hunger Games,” she said.