Arvaye Robinson, the mother of two elementary school girls she had hoped to enroll in the Arlington Public Schools extended day program, stood in front of the Syphax Education Center this morning during the system’s technical problems that ultimately suspended sign-up indefinitely.
“I’m so disappointed,” Robinson said, exasperated, with her phone in her hand waiting to hear from a school staffer. “I wanted some confirmation.”
After setting an alarm for exactly 7:59 a.m. so she could hop online and enroll her children, Robinson realized that the site was down and that she would have to drive to the center to enroll her children in person. She was told that she would receive a call about placement, but she didn’t feel confident about that.
“They have the means to take payment, but no concrete confirmation,” said Robinson.
A father who overheard ARLnow interviewing Robinson cut into the conversation, calling the situation absurd and saying that it had thrown his work schedule out the window for the second year in a row.
Indeed, this is the second consecutive year that extended day registration has flopped. There are varying reports of exactly how many parents waited in line to secure a spot for their children, but one parent told ARLnow she saw at least 100 people in the Syphax Education Center’s lobby this morning.
The extended day program allows parents “who can’t juggle everything” to leave children in their school’s care before and after classes, according to the program’ director, Bobby Kaplow.
According to Kaplow, after last year’s technical failure with the same vendor, APS spent the year troubleshooting with the contractor, trying to find a solution.
“All year we worked with him, we told him what we needed, we told him what the problem was, can he see it on his end,” Kaplow said, adding that he had demanded that the contractor fly in from Michigan to be on-site for the enrollment rollout today in case any issues cropped up.
“I talked to him 20 minutes before it started today, and said, ‘Are we good?'” Kaplow said. The contractor told the director that there wouldn’t be any problems.
Kaplow suspects that the issue lies in the simultaneous, high numbers of enrollment attempts overloading the system.
Today’s 8 a.m. enrollment start time was just that — a start time. Technically, enrollment is ongoing, but some schools quickly incur a wait list for open spots and parents don’t want their child’s status to remain in limbo. Many wake up and pound the keyboard, as Kaplow put it, hoping to get their child in the right program right away.
He said that this year’s line of waiting parents wasn’t as bad as last year’s, which he recalls went “all the way down the hall and out the door and down the street.”
One mother tried to enroll her daughter in the program both on her computer and her cell phone before eventually going in person to the facility.
“When I tried to, the system was closed off,” she told ARLnow in Spanish. “It was the same last year.”
Typically, she makes $9 an hour as a cleaner. Having to take off the day, without notice, to enroll her daughter this morning was necessary, but it impacts her family financially.
“The worst is that we lost the day and we won’t get paid,” she said, pointing to two friends joining her in line.
Despite the difficulty, that mother values the extended day program, although she added that “when you have a low salary, it’s more or less very expensive.”
“This program is very important,” she added. “It’s just very slow for the people who need it.”