FONTANA -- Call it a stalemate.

Call it political gridlock.

After several hours of hearing many residents' - and schoolchildren's - pleas to retain a city-run after-school program, the school board couldn't agree Wednesday evening on any of several motions to start planning for next year.

Last month, the Fontana Unified school board locked in a 2-2 vote on renewing the contract for the 6-year-old program that serves some 3,500 children. An agenda item needs a majority vote to pass.

Sophia Green and Leticia Garcia voted not to OK the contract. School board President Gus Hawthorn and Lorena Corona favored it. BarBara Chavez, vice president of the school board, abstained because she is employed by the after-school program.

Garcia posted an agenda item for Wednesday night's meeting seeking board approval to request proposals from vendors to take over the after-school program, which is especially important to working parents.

That motion died on a 2-2 vote, with Green and Garcia favoring a request for proposals and Hawthorn and Corona opposed.

At one point, Garcia amended her agenda item to invite the city of Fontana to be part of the bidding process.

That motion died as well.

Corona and Hawthorn, in various combinations, proposed tabling Garcia's motion and coming back with a proposal next month to continue the city contract.

Every vote was split , meaning that every motion died.

"We are at a stalemate," said Maribel Molina, the school board's attorney.

Garcia said that by opposing her motion to include the city in the request for proposals, the after-school program was in jeopardy of not being around next year.

Superintendent Cali-Olsen Binks said a decision at the May 15 board meeting would allow enough time for a new vendor to be ready for the new school year.

Last month, Garcia stressed that her "no" vote on renewing the contract with the city was to find a vendor "that knows its place" and in no way meant that the after-school program would end. It would just be administered by another group. And most of its 350 employees would be hired by the new operator, she said.

Corona, in her proposal Wednesday evening, said the school board has a "moral responsibility" to continue its relationship with the city, especially since a citizens' oversight committee gave the program high marks.

"I have a feeling this is all going to work out. You can't ignore all these people," Mayor Acquanetta Warren said after school board moved onto other issues at about 11:30 p.m.

"I have all the faith in the world it is clear this program needs to continue," Warren said.

The city of Fontana kicks in $1.2 million as a match to draw most of the program's funding from the state of California.

It is not clear how that money will be replaced if the district selects another vendor.

Among those making a case for preservation of the city-run program was Rich Hunt, president of the Fontana Police Officers Association, who said it was important to have the city and the school district working together.

"I'm a concerned and confused parent," said Adrian Isles, before the board started its deadlock-producing voting. "The one constant my daughter has raved about as making her life better is the after-school program. "

Vincent Becerra, 15, told the board he has attended after-school programs in several other California school districts and Fontana Unified's was by far the best.

Garcia said many area school districts are moving away from city parks and recreation department models and contracting with agencies that are more education focused, especially since there are new, stricter education guidelines coming down from the state.

Warren said city after-school program specialists were already working on those new regulations.

Outside the board meeting room, parent Adriana Padua said she is worried she may not like the program that would replace the one run by the city - and that there might not be room in the new program for her two children.