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Savannah Arts Admissions Process Questioned

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Some Chatham County students are relying on the luck of the draw to find out if they'll secure a spot in a special education program. The district uses a lottery system in an effort to keep the competition fair but not all parents are happy with this process.

Some Garrison parents are questioning the admissions process for Savannah Arts Academy. Garrison is a performing arts school for grades pre-k through 8th. Some parents said when Garrison became a specialty school they were promised it would be a pathway for arts education which would lead students to Savannah Arts Academy High School. The lottery system is preventing an admissions preference. 

The amount of students that want to go to Savannah Arts Academy outweighs the number of open seats. The lottery system is supposed to keep the chances fair but Garrison School Council President, Janine Donovan, said it's a new concept this year for that school.

"Years past it was a ranking system and Garrison students had done very well with the ranking system and most of them would get in because they were very prepared at this school," said Donovan.

The Chief Academic Officer for the Savannah-Chatham County Public School System, Dr. Ann Levett, said Savannah Arts Academy was never supposed to use a ranking system.

"I learned since examining the process, that has been executed over the past few years, that was never the intention so what we did was actually right the process," said Dr. Levett.

The correct process now includes students meeting the academic criteria, passing the audition, and then entering the lottery.

Dr. Levett said at no time did the school board ever vote for a direct pathway from Garrison to Savannah Arts Academy, but it was discussed.

"I believe some people went away understanding that original concept and supported it. They are still relying on that original concept, which the superintendent to this day has expressed support for it, just hasn't worked out yet," said Dr. Levett.

Donovan said the lottery system doesn't ensure that the most talented students get in.

"A student here or anywhere in the county that would score extremely high on their audition would have the same chance getting into Savannah Arts as someone that scores very low on their audition," said Donovan.

Dr. Levett said a ranking system can be very subjective.

"I think the ranking is not necessarily out, but it certainly needs to be out for this year, until we can examine the process and make sure it's fair as possible," said Dr. Levett.

The school district said Savannah Arts Academy received 564 applications for 212 seats. 227 students made it into the lottery.

Dr. Levett said the only admissions preference a student can get to attend Savannah Arts Academy is if their parent works there or if a sibling is enrolled.

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