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ArlingtonCounty aims to avoid another summer-camp-registration disaster

County aims to avoid another summer-camp-registration disaster

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With this past Feb. 23 remaining a date which will live in infamy for many Arlington parents who tried to sign their children up for county-government summer-recreation programs, county officials say they’re making changes in an effort to ensure a similar meltdown doesn’t occur again.

Department of Parks and Recreation director Jane Rudolph on Nov. 15 briefed County Board members on steps that are planned to ensure that the sign-up process, which collapsed as the system was jammed by parents trying to find available spaces, doesn’t repeat itself in 2023.

Among the plans: Spacing out registration depending on the type of camp, pushing the first day of registration back to March and taking an all-hands-on-deck approach that will include a 50-person registration team and 100 phone lines to handle the early crush. Some of the most popular summer-camp options also will see larger sizes in the coming year.

Parks officials also will be instituting larger penalties for parents who cancel at the last minute, attempting to disincentivize those who might sign up but drop out close to the start of camp, leaving the space unused. The new refund policy, which has not yet been fully fleshed out, will be something that “has a little more teeth,” Rudolph said.

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Also new for 2023: Parents of children eligible for reduced-cost camps or those taking part in adapted programs will be able to register up to a week ahead of the general public, giving them time to sort out any problems that in the past might have delayed their registration until no spaces remained available.

That early-registration period will be limited to 25 percent of any particular camp’s capacity, Rudolph said.

County Board response was somewhat optimistic, but cautiously so.

“I still have my reservations,” board member Takis Karantonis said after the briefing.

But, he said, let’s see how it plays out.

“There’s a serious effort to improve here, and I appreciate that,” Karantonis said. “You’re trying to distribute the load and manage the peaks.”

His board colleague Libby Garvey also tried to see the proposed changes as being a glass half-full rather than half-empty.

“I’m sure it won’t go perfectly, but I think it’s going to go a whole lot better,” she said.

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