By Wakisha Bailey

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Philadelphia School District parents are continuing to voice their concerns about the district’s lottery process, so much they are planning a protest Thursday afternoon at the headquarters. For the first time, CBS3 is hearing directly from middle schoolers who say they’ve worked hard these past two years and wish they had a say.

“We were promised we would come back to the high school on the tour,” student Sam Kanganey told CBS3.

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Sam Kanganey and more than two dozen classmates say recent changes to the school selection process have put their plans for high school in jeopardy.

“I’m am writing on behalf of George Washington Carver High School of Engineering Sciences 8th Grade, for me and all or our peers. Carver is our home,” Kanganey read from a petition.

“I wanted to follow in my brother’s footsteps,” one student said.

Another student said, “It doesn’t need to be a district-wide lottery. They only need to focus on those couple of schools, and we’re not one of those schools.”

This year, district officials unveiled major changes to the high school special admissions policies. Now, students will need to enter a centralized lottery that prioritizes students from low income zip codes.

“For many years, there was a conception people felt they were entitled to seats in schools, or they were going to be automatically given a seat in a certain school because of a relationship that existed prior,” Monica Lewis, spokesperson for the Philadelphia School District, said.

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That’s all about to change, according to Lewis, who said they are not targeting any particular schools like Carver — where 80% of their students are minorities, more than 60% come from low income homes, and the majority of students go on to college. Lewis said this process has been in the works before the pandemic.

“Change will make you feel some discomfort, but the bigger vision is for equity across the district,” she said.

Parents that spoke to Eyewitness News think the change is coming at bad time for existing students.

“That process should perhaps change with new students and should not start to impact the current students,” parent Tanya Folk said.

“My son did everything he was supposed to do. He kept his grades up, his attendance up,” parent Kim Fisher said.

“It would destroy my emotions to not come back to Carver for high school,” Kanganey said, wrapping up the petition.

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In addition to Thursday’s protest, parents are requesting a town hall with the district. The district said that will likely not happen, but they welcome parents’ calls or emails.

Wakisha Bailey