Santa Ana school trustees Tuesday delayed voting whether to do away with the annual rite of parent camp-outs to enroll children in the district's six magnet schools and replace it with a lottery.
Board members said they postponed action because board President Nadia Davis was absent. A vote on the change is now set for Oct. 9.
The issue arose after some officials expressed concern that having hundreds of parents sleep for days in tents outside school grounds might violate state laws requiring random admission to the district's magnet schools.
The campuses offer a back-to-basics curriculum and strict discipline.
In Santa Ana Unified, those schools generally have higher standardized test scores.
Some officials, parents and students say that camp-outs make it next to impossible for parents who cannot afford to take a week off from work to get their children in.
"I feel the current system of camp-outs is biased against single moms," said Laura Raya, 17, a student at Santa Ana High School and a member of a campus advocacy group for single mothers. "They are low-income, and they can't miss a day of work to camp out."
But parents whose children attend the district's six fundamental schools vehemently oppose the change.
About a dozen came to Tuesday's board meeting prepared to object. They say the camp-outs are an integral part of ensuring excellent education at the campuses.
Richard Montecino, president of the Parent-Faculty Assn. at Greenville Fundamental School, said the secret to the fundamental schools' success is parental commitment and that is fostered by the camp-outs.
Greenville parents hope to find an attorney who would volunteer time to investigate whether the current system is legal and who would be an advocate for parents with the board.
Roland Lujan, president of the Parent-Faculty Assn. at MacArthur Fundamental School, said Tuesday night, "I'm still opposed to the change. We want to have a school of choice. It's not a school of choice if you have a lottery."
School board members have said that the district must comply with state laws.
If they change the admission procedure to a lottery system, they have pledged to continue support for extraordinary parental involvement at fundamental schools by requiring those who want to enter the lottery to attend at least three classes to learn about the schools.