Community High School lottery: An emotional experience for Ann Arbor students
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Andrea Shapiro ran her finger down the list of numbers posted on the window outside Community High School Tuesday afternoon.
In the next instant, she was jumping up and down, a giant smile stretched from ear to ear. A group of students nearby shouted to Shapiro, "Did you get in?" She nodded her head fiercely.
Shapiro's happiness soon turned to disappointment when she realized she had misread her student I.D. number and actually drew a lottery number in the 200s. The Slauson Middle School eighth-grader had hopes of becoming involved in Community's music program. She plays the piano and the guitar.
"But it's OK," Shapiro said. "Some of my friends didn't get in either. So we'll go to Pioneer. It'll be OK."
Community, the alternative public high school in downtown Ann Arbor, conducts a double-blind lottery each winter to determine its incoming freshmen class for the following school year.
Statistically, only about a third to a quarter of the students who apply have a chance of getting in.
The lawn behind the school Tuesday was speckled with groups of somber teens, hugging and consoling one another after discovering their lottery number was too high. Many students cried. Several others paced the sidewalks and called their parents on their cell phones to talk about which other high schools they possibly could attend.
For students whose numbers fell between 200 and 300, current Community high-schoolers could be heard offering words of encouragement: "Well, maybe second semester," or "Next year you could get called."
Frances MacKercher, a ninth-grader at Community High this year, recalled her lottery experience. She was one of the lucky ones: She got in, but none of her friends did. It made her decision hard, she said. MacKercher wasn't sure whether to attend Community or to attend her home school of Skyline.
"I really wasn't that excited because I was kind of torn on where to go," she said. "I decided to try it, knowing I could always drop out if I didn't like it."
In hindsight, choosing Community was one of the best decisions MacKercher has made. She loves the teachers and the forums and has made a number of new friends who share her interest, which right now is photography, she said.
Gabe Share, an eighth-grader at Ann Arbor Open School, walked down to the school Tuesday with about 15 to 20 of his AAO peers — all of whom applied to attend Community. The trek from AAO is a bit of tradition, one parent said. The students walk together to check the list.
Share did not get in. He said he wanted to attend Community because his sister went to CHS and really enjoyed her experience.
Zach Cameron, another AAO student, did get in. He drew lottery No. 93.
"I'm really excited," he said. "Because I went to Ann Arbor Open, I feel like they run the same, and I really liked the open environment. And I feel like the teachers (at Community) are all really good."
A number of students and parents cited the teachers as part of the appeal of Community, as well as the smaller environment when compared to one of the larger comprehensive high schools.
Vanessa Revelli's son, Slauson Middle School student Vincent Barlow, was No. 46 in Community's lottery. Revelli said as a parent, she supported her son's decision to apply. He's a very artistic kid, she said, and she liked that the school was smaller than his home school, Pioneer.
"I've never seen him so excited. He yelled. He gave me a hug and was pumping his fists in the air. I've probably gotten more hugs today than I ever have," Revelli said.
She added she likes the curriculum at Community and how her son will be able to custom build his education more than at a comprehensive high school. Revelli also said the teachers seem very enthusiastic and committed to the Community model and the subjects they teach.
The curriculum and students' test scores at Community were driving factors for Tod Durkin and his son, Conor, in applying to the school.
"(Ann Arbor Public Schools Superintendent) Patricia Green should set up a desk in the Community office or something and take notes on what they're doing here. Because whatever it is, it's working," Tod Durkin said.
Conor Durkin, an eighth-grader at Forsythe Middle School, was No. 143 in the lottery, so he was told he was "on the bubble" and likely will get in. He said he likes that Community has more unique electives and courses available for students. He hopes to take the astrophysics class, he said.
And there is the added benefit of having an open campus and being able to walk to Kerrytown for lunch, Conor Durkin said.