LIZA LAW didn't expect a line to form outside of Penn Alexander Elementary for registration until Sunday.

"In a flurry of three hours, people were texting and emailing, saying, 'There's a line that's coming. You better get going,' " Law said Friday afternoon, bundled up from head to toe.

She had left work early, preparing to camp outside the well-regarded West Philadelphia school until Tuesday morning to secure for her daughter one of 70 available seats. Law's daughter attends the Philadelphia School, a private school with $18,000 tuition.

"This is a huge cost factor for us," Law said, "This will really alleviate that tuition issue.

"I wish all Philadelphia schools were as great as this one so we wouldn't have to wait in line," she added.

She was among more than 70 people who lined the sidewalk at 43rd and Locust streets. Some of them huddled around a fire pit; two RVs were parked near the school's front entrance, and a portable toilet was stationed across from the school. Most of those in line had tents for the nighttime.

But by about 6 p.m., they learned that they wouldn't be spending the weekend shivering for their children's education.

Karen Lynch, a school district representative, arrived and told them that registration would be through a lottery. The lottery application is posted on the district's website and is due April 1.

Fernando Gallard, a district spokesman, said the district is testing out a lottery registration at Penn Alexander because of concerns of equity and safety.

"Not every parent can stand in line for three or four days," Gallard said. "It was really a concern for the safety of individuals staying outside on the sidewalk overnight. It isn't safe."

On Twitter: @DerrickMooreDN