NEW: Arlington’s summer camp registration system melts down again, despite changes – ARLnow

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Cover of Arlington’s 2022 Summer Camp catalogue

(Updated at 11:50 a.m.) Like death and taxes, Arlington summer camp registration drama is inevitable, despite efforts to avoid it.

This year, of course, was supposed to be different. This year, beefier systems and new monitoring tools were supposed to help avoid the technical meltdowns of past years.

But Arlington moms and dads and their fast clicking fingers are undefeated, instantly bringing down the Dept. of Parks and Recreation’s camp registration website when the virtual gates were opened this morning at 7 a.m.

“Pulled up the web page at 6:50 this a.m.,” one frustrated parent of a seven-year-old tennis enthusiast recounted to ARLnow this morning. “Found the only camp I was trying to register… Waited until 7:00 a.m. when registration opened and tried to register… [spent] 40 minutes trying to log in.”

Numerous others reported similar experiences. The lucky ones were able to register for some camps after nearly an hour of navigating various error messages.

“With so many two parent working families in this county, summer camps are child care — plain and simple,” another parent who reached out via email wrote. “How can a county that proclaims equity have such a crappy website that crashes when it comes to summer child care? Every single year this happens.”

That parent, who was also prepared in advance and started clicking at 7 a.m. on the dot, was only able to notch a hollow victory in her registration quest.

“I got [my daughter] into one [camp] after an hour of watching the wheel turn saying please wait, trying to add the camps to my cart only to get kicked out, and then the website timing out completely just as I was about to register,” the parent wrote. “She is now waitlisted for 4 of the 5 camps. I have no idea what I am going to do for childcare over the summer.”

The parks department was, as in years past, apologetic.

“Thank you for your patience,” DPR said in a message posted to it website. “Due to increased registration volume the system is performing slower than anticipated. DPR is working hard to address the problem. Please stay in queue. We are seeing registrations go through slowly and have been working with our vendor all morning.”

Late Wednesday morning, a parks department spokeswoman provided the following statement to ARLnow.

We understand how important summer camp is to Arlington families and we strive to make the customer experience positive from beginning to end. That clearly did not happen today. We apologize for the frustrating experience that many people had this morning trying to register for summer camp. The DPR team is working diligently to help enroll our customers who have been waitlisted or otherwise unable to successfully register this morning. 

Last year our contractor added resources to support an even higher transaction volume and implemented. However, this year due to substantially higher registration volume these efforts didn’t go far enough.    

DPR will do a full review of the summer camp registration process; this will include exploring both technology and operational solutions to provide a better registration process for 2023.

More parent accounts of this year’s registration issues are below.

The DPR website crashing and burning the morning of summer camp registration: an annual ritual

— Eric Berkey (@berkeyeric) February 23, 2022

Took me 90 minutes to register for one camp. I’m grateful I had the time to stay on my computer and get this done, but this definitely isn’t the most efficient or fair way to do this. @ArlingtonVA

— Theo LeCompte (@theolecompte) February 23, 2022

@VermontSystems I lost my cart after an hour of filling it with desired camps.

— KOConnie (@KOConnie) February 23, 2022

As long as I’m waiting…isn’t this also an equity/access problem? I feel for parents who don’t get to work from home and can’t wait forever here like I can.

— Calamity Jane Austen (@CalamityAusten) February 23, 2022

Infuriating! If there is more interest than space why don’t we do a lottery?

— Lara Macdonald (@LaraMacAPS) February 23, 2022

It’s like this every. friggin. year.

— Eric Berkey (@berkeyeric) February 23, 2022

I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate and registered for summer camp in Arlington. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain.

— SRtwofourfour (@SRtwofourfour) February 23, 2022

Rant from a dad & human factors expert. I have spent over 1 hr trying to sign my son up for summer camps through @ArlingtonVA. A process that should take 5 minutes takes 10x longer. Part of this is volume (understandable) & part is a terrible interface. Examples:

cc @ARLnowDOTcom

— Raj Ratwani, PhD (@RajRatwani) February 23, 2022

@kcristol – this happens every year and every year DPR sorta half apologizes like it couldn’t be helped. It’s a huge stressor for parents/caregivers. Please, please, please help us.

— eBike Gillian (@BikeGillian) February 23, 2022

Is @vermontsystems made of maple syrup drip lines? Asking for a friend who has being trying to register for summer camps all morning and the system DOES NOT WORK! Please fix your site and system @ArlingtonVA @ArlingtonParks This isn’t that hard. @ARLnowDOTcom

— SpreadsheetNinja (@SpredsheetNinja) February 23, 2022