One after another, the names of their six-year-old daughters were read out yesterday afternoon.
Parents of 73 children hoping to enter CHIJ St Nicholas Girls' School had to go through a nerve-racking ballot for 68 available places in the early 2A1 phase of the Primary 1 registration exercise.
Some parents heaved a sigh of relief when they heard their daughters' names, while others, hopeful at first, grew visibly disappointed as their chances dwindled.
It is the first time a school has been oversubscribed so early since Phase 2A1 - the second of seven registration phases - was introduced in 1999. It is for children with a parent in the school's alumni association for at least a year or on the school advisory committee.
In the past, all applicants at this stage had secured a spot.
Housewife Karen Chen's daughter was among the last few to snag a place yesterday. "It was nerve- racking," said Ms Chen, 33, who lives in Kembangan.
From Phase 2A1 onwards, places are balloted based on the home-to-school distance criterion when the number of applications exceeds vacancies.
When registration for Phase 2A1 closed on Tuesday, there were 97 children vying for the 92 spots available. Twenty-four of the children, who are Singapore citizens and live within 2km of the school, secured their places.
The rest had to ballot for the remaining spots yesterday.
The oversubscription means no remaining places will be carried forward to the next Phase 2A2 for ex-pupils not in the alumni association. The school had already set aside 40 of its Primary 1 vacancies for the later 2B and 2C phases, under a rule introduced last year.
The squeeze may be due to more parents joining the alumni association after the rule change, and is not helped by the fact that parents who studied at its affiliated secondary school are also given alumni status.
In addition, the school has only 210 places in total, fewer than other popular schools such as Nanyang Primary, which offered 390 spots.
Ms Chen was among those who decided to join the alumni association, so her daughter had a better shot at enrolling. "It is a popular school and, as parents, we want the best for our kids," she said.
A few were less fortunate. Housewife Gracie Chiam, 41, narrowly missed out on a place for her child. "I am a little disappointed," she said. "But it is not the end of the world... We will pray for an alternative."