Montgomery County's first charter school botched its first year of admissions, notifying at least 72 children who did not receive seats at Community Montessori Public Charter School that they had been admitted.
Meanwhile -- thanks to a human error -- parents of children who were admitted were incorrectly told that their children were put on a wait list.
"Your questions to us as to how that could have occurred are entirely appropriate and understandable," Kathleen Guinan, CEO of the charter's operator, Crossway Community Inc., wrote in an email to parents. "If we are in your shoes, we would be asking the same questions."
When charter schools -- which are county public schools -- receive more applications than they can accept, school officials hold a lottery for admissions, as was the case at Community Montessori, which will be in Kensington. For just 70 seats, 247 3- and 4-year-old children had applications put in.
Among the 4-year-old group, 119 applied for 47 seats. The night before emails with the lottery results went out to parents, "the send-all option was accidentally triggered," and all parents of 4-year-olds were told their children were accepted.
"It was a human error. It was a really wonderful person trying to do the right thing," Guinan said Thursday. Most parents were understanding of the situation, and no employees were reprimanded, she said.
In a memo to the county school board, Montgomery County Public Schools Superintendent Joshua Starr said some parents whose children did receive seats were initially told they were wait-listed.
"Staff has been in contact with Crossway Community Inc. and currently is gathering additional facts," Starr wrote.
MCPS spokesman Dana Tofig confirmed the report but referred questions to Crossway Community.
In the District, 41 percent of public school students attend charter schools; there are 53 charter schools spread across 98 campuses, with more opening each year.
"I have not heard of anything like that happening here," said Audrey Williams, a spokeswoman for the DC Public Charter School Board. "I would have heard. Parents complain. I think they have the lottery process down to a science."
While Community Montessori plans to serve just preschool and prekindergarten students in its first year, the charter plans to grow over the next few years to serve children between the ages of 3 and 6. Ultimately, the school hopes to have classes through the third grade.
Guinan said most families applying for admission live within walking distance of the Kensington school.