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Revamped class registration process avoids total meltdown, but widespread problems reported

Fall 2022 Arlington parks and rec class registration poster

Arlington’s fall aquatics class registration did not go swimmingly for many who attempted it on Wednesday.

On the plus side, there appears to have been some degree of improvement from past meltdowns.

Until now, the quick clicking fingers of Arlington parents were virtually undefeated in bringing down even the beefiest of servers that the county’s tech vendor could assign to the competitive class and camp registration process.

Such was the case in February, for summer camp registration, and in March, for spring class registration. From our March article:

Waitlists, error messages and a call line 90 people deep thwarted Arlington residents’ attempts to enroll in spring classes through the parks department this morning.

The Department of Parks and Recreation offers a variety of classes in the spring, fall and winter that range from gymnastics and swimming to ceramics and jewelry making. The classes for kids are particularly popular with local parents. And registration day system failures — like those from opening day of summer camp registration — are not new for these classes, either.

Some compared the registration process to “getting front row Bruce Springsteen tickets” — to wit, “stressful and horrible.” […]

After summer camp registration crashed immediately upon opening the morning of Feb. 23 — despite attempts to beef up the platform in advance — parks department spokeswoman Susan Kalish said the platform vendor conducted “tests and improvements that should have resulted in a smooth registration” on Wednesday morning.

That did not happen.

More drastic measures were taken after March’s fiasco. The parks department, through its vendor, Vermont Systems, introduced virtual waiting rooms while staggering the registration for different types of classes.

Ever-popular gymnastics and swim classes, for instance, each got their own day this week. The goal was to prevent a crush of people all trying to register at once for the limited class spots.

That worked, to an extent, but there were still plenty of parent grumbles and reports of bugs in the online system.

“Totally unsuccessful for me,” one person reported on the popular Mothers of North Arlington (MONA) listserv. “Lots of errors, stalling out of the site, etc. I hope others had better luck.”

“We logged in exactly at [noon] and we’re unable to sign up for anything,” wrote another. “All wait-list sections also filled up within a minute apparently.”

“Virtual wait-room” for fall aquatics class registration

One parent’s effort, observed by ARLnow, had them placed 633rd in line to register for youth swim classes despite having arrived in the virtual “pre-wait room” well before registration started at noon. The parent was informed that the system “randomly assigned people to make selections.”

Ultimately, that parent was only able to get on a waitlist for a class.

On social media, other parents reported an array of bugs and errors.

Arlington Dept. of Parks and Recreation spokeswoman Susan Kalish, in a statement to ARLnow, acknowledged the issues and said the department is working to improve the process.

Despite the problems, more than 2,000 enrollments were processed in the first hour of class registration on Tuesday and Wednesday, Kalish said. The third and final registration window — for nature, history and other, general classes — opened earlier today.

Kalish’s full statement is below.

Our Fall ENJOY Arlington! offerings remain very popular with demand far exceeding availability in many classes. We continue to make adjustments to our registration process to improve system performance. We spread out online registration for Arlington residents by class type over three days and also implemented a waiting room function to enhance the user experience. These changes have helped but there is always room to improve.

While the registration experience was smooth for a majority of customers this week, our registration vendor is examining the logs to explore what we believe are issues encountered by some users, particularly during Wednesday’s aquatics registration, that occurred when a significant number of people were attempting to register for the same class at the same time.

  • On Tuesday, 703 enrollments happened during the first hour of registration for gymnastics classes.  An additional 682 people were put on a waitlist during that time.
  • On Wednesday, 1,522 enrollments happened during the first hour of registration for aquatics classes.  An additional 770 people were put on a waitlist during that time. By the end of the day, more than 1,700 people were on a waitlist for an aquatics class.

We believe we are working in the right direction and will continue to look for opportunities for improvement going forward.

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