Press Club

Morning Poll: Should summer camp registration shift to a lottery system?

A man clicks a mouse (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class William Tracy)

Yet another year of summer camp registration drama is prompting action by the Arlington County Board.

The online registration system used by Arlington’s Dept. of Parks and Recreation again melted down as camp registration opened at 7 a.m. on Wednesday, despite efforts to beef up the systems this year.

Camp registration is competitive in Arlington, with parents jockeying for position to claim some of the prime camp slots the second registration opens. That makes it tough to keep up with demand, amid hundreds or even thousands of people trying to register at the same time.

At stake is not only enrichment opportunities for kids, but affordable de facto childcare for parents.

After another year of stories of frustrated parents spending an hour or more trying to get the registration pages to load, Arlington County Board Chair Katie Cristol said the Board has “been in touch with the County Manager and department leadership about expectations for a full reform of registration.”

DPR will be “designing a new process” and the Board has “asked for details… including a timeline for implementation,” Cristol said in a statement she posted on social media.

What’s unclear is what a new registration system might entail.

One possibility is that the process remains competitive, with more robust technology preventing server crashes and those with quick clicking fingers continuing to get an advantage.

Another possibility, as suggested by some parents in the wake of last week’s fiasco, is a lottery system that would remove the need for parents to wake up early and try to register as quickly as possible, but would add some additional uncertainty to parents’ summer childcare plans.

In a lottery system, one might have to try to register for multiple camps in order to increase the odds of getting a given time slot. Then, they would have to cancel the registration for any duplicate entries. But if everyone adopted that strategy, it might lead to a chaotic registration process and make it hard for DPR to predict the true demand for a given camp.

Which do you think the parks department should choose?

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