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Arlington summer camp registration is one week away

Cover of Arlington’s 2024 summer camp catalog (via Arlington County)

Summer camp registration is just around the corner, with yet another change to smooth out the process.

Camp registration — historically a process plagued with problems for parents — was a relatively quiet affair last year after the county and its platform vendor tweaked the technology and made a few other changes.

After surveying families, Arlington’s Dept. of Parks and Recreation made a few other changes to the process this year, DPR spokeswoman Jerry Solomon tells ARLnow. Notably, registration starts next week, up from March and April in years past, so families can get a head-start on summer plans.

The parks department has also staggered registration start dates to ease potential strains on its software. Sign-ups for camps run by DPR’s partners open next Wednesday, Feb. 14, and for county-run camps the following Wednesday, Feb. 21. All registration sessions open at noon.

Registration opened for families who qualify for fee reductions on Monday while out-of-county residents can register for camps starting March 4.

This year brings another change that Solomon says is intended to make the process more efficient and manage expectations for families. Waitlists will be limited to 50% of each camp’s total enrollment — so, a camp with 40 available slots will have a maximum waitlist of 20.

This is a shift from years past, Solomon said, when families “often were on huge waitlists with little chance of getting a camp slot.” That could beget families signing up for multiple waitlists, leading to a pile-on effect and additional system strain.

“This change will allow for a more efficient registration process,” Solomon continued. “If spaces become available for new enrollments, the camp enrollment status will be updated.”

The newest update tacks onto a package of changes that went into effect last year to keep the county’s registration software from crashing. For years, parents would wake up early to nab spots for their children only to be greeted with spinning wheels and error messages.

County officials promised change in 2022, only to have the software melt down once again. They tried again, making a variety of changes that included:

  • A virtual waiting room function
  • Adjusting and staggering registration dates and times
  • Updating the camp refund policy
  • Adding more camp slots
  • Increasing the number of day-of-registration support staff to 40
  • Offering early registration for families with active fee reductions

Solomon said the adjustments proved successful. The system “remained stable” last year and DPR had “unusually low call volumes,” indicating that fewer families were having problems.

“We are encouraged by the registration system’s improved performance and look forward to a successful summer camp registration this February,” the spokesperson said.

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