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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.

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The Enjoy Arlington 2022 spring catalogue (via Arlington County)

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 (Wednesday).

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.” Others likened it to the summer camp sign-up drama three weeks ago.

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.

“This morning, Arlington County’s Department of Parks and Recreation saw slower than desired response times for the spring ENJOY Arlington class registration,” she said. “Even though we staggered class registration start times and limited user search capabilities, our vendor’s registration system could not handle the high registration volume.”

While the number of people competing for spots was high, it was still on par with prior first-day enrollments, she said.

Registration opened for gymnastics classes at 7 a.m., aquatics classes at 7:30 a.m., and all other classes at 8 a.m. Residents reported struggling to get their preferences despite having their fingers poised over their keyboards ahead of time.

DPR encouraged people to call the office for assistance with registration. The line was quickly swamped with callers, and while they waited, the online platform timed people out.

Those looking to enroll in just one class said even that was impossible.

Following today’s issues, some repeated their calls on the parks department to fix the system, or change it to a lottery process. Under that system, parents would not have to wake up early and register at lightning speed, but it would add uncertainty to their kids’ schedules.

An unscientific ARLnow poll found 41% of respondents support a lottery system, while 58% said DPR ought to keep the current process but get better technology or a new vendor. At least one resident suggested Arlington look to the tech giant Amazon, currently building its second headquarters in Pentagon City.

Last month, Board Chair Katie Cristol issued a statement responding to and echoing parent frustrations with the process for getting into camp. She said the Board told County Manager Mark Schwartz and department leaders it expects a “full reform of registration.”

She reiterated those sentiments in a statement to ARLnow Wednesday morning.

“We’re disappointed and frustrated, and this highlights the need for the total redesign of the registration process to which DPR has committed,” she said of today’s issues.

DPR will start reviewing its processes and solutions this spring, Kalish said.

A plan for improvements to next year’s registration process could be ready by September, DPR’s Director Jane Rudolph told the County Board yesterday (Tuesday) during a work session on the upcoming 2022-23 budget.

She told the Board that preventing future breakdowns “is our highest department-wide priority.”

The timeline for DPR’s review of registration (via Arlington County)

“As we know, the issue goes beyond just a technology solution,” she said. “We have a high demand and not enough supply for certain camps and for certain age groups.”

DPR is looking into increasing slots where demand is greatest: options for older toddlers and elementary school-aged kids, as well as sports and robotics programs, Rudolph said.

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The 25-yard lanes, which can be turned into a 50-meter pool, in the Long Bridge Park Aquatics & Fitness Center (staff photo)

This year saw major changes to how Arlington County and Arlington Public Schools run community swim classes, to the surprise of some locals.

In July, Arlington Public Schools launched the APS Aquatics School for students and residents, while the county opened the Long Bridge Aquatics & Fitness Center in August.

APS’s new program prompted the county’s Department of Parks and Recreation to relocate most of its classes from local public high schools to the new facility near Crystal City. Since September, Long Bridge has been home to all county classes — save youth swim team practices — which officials say centralizes the county’s program and serves more people.

“Arlington County has long known the community demand for aquatics programs far exceeded the pool capacity in Arlington Public Schools,” said parks department spokeswoman Susan Kalish. “Opening a long-awaited community treasure is hard enough, opening it amidst a pandemic has been amazing. We are happy as to how the Long Bridge Aquatics & Fitness Center has been received. And with the opening, there are now more opportunities than ever.”

Until this fall, DPR scheduled all classes, competitive swim team training and public swim time in the pools at Wakefield, Washington-Liberty and Yorktown high schools. With Long Bridge and the new school program up and running, APS and DPR are hammering out a new policy for sharing facilities. In the meantime, folks are still learning about and adjusting to the changes, per social media and emails to ARLnow.

“This is huge,” one tipster tells us. “The neighborhood school pools are one of the silent gems of Arlington… I don’t think anyone thought the aquatic center would take neighborhood pool classes.”

The school system started its swim class program on July 14 to recover more of the costs to maintain the pools and offer affordable classes, APS spokesman Frank Bellavia said.

Initially, Kalish says the school system asked DPR to move all programs to Long Bridge, including practice for the youngest members of Arlington Aquatic Club — the county-run competitive swim program that helped train Olympic medalist Torri Huske.

“It became apparent that youth swim teams are more successful when their training base is close to home,” she said. “This school year, per [a School Board policy], APS is allowing five practice groups to train about 15 hours a week at Wakefield and W-L pools.”

DPR decides which groups to schedule at the high school pools and pays APS to use them, Bellavia said.

Today, APS offers drowning prevention and learn-to-swim classes for babies, toddlers, children and adults, and fitness classes for adults and seniors.

Classes are staffed and filling up, Bellavia says, despite difficulties recruiting lifeguards and swimming instructors — another impact of nationwide workforce shortages.

“[The] APS Aquatics School implementation plan is on schedule and both the Summer and Fall term have been fully staffed and the courses, especially PreK School and Swim School, have been fully subscribed with a few experiencing small waitlist,” Bellavia said.

Classes generally fill up within the first week of registration, which opens 30 days before the session starts, he added.

“We have a new teacher who is very good,” said one Facebook user of her experience in W-L’s water aerobics class. “I get a true workout.”

Likewise, Kalish says the Long Bridge aquatics programs are “very popular.”

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(Updated 4/5/21) The Arlington Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) will be teaching people how to respond to life-threatening situations until help arrives.

Over the course of a free, 2.5-hour class, anyone who lives, works or volunteers in Arlington can learn skills such as how to stop severe bleeding and provide psychological first aid. The class, “Until Help Arrives,” is part of a national campaign to teach the public how to help during emergencies from car accidents to active shooter situations.

The next hands-on training course is Saturday, April 10 from 10 a.m.-noon at 1429 N. Quincy Street, a site the county had used for drive-thru and mobile COVID-19 testing. The next virtual training will be on Apr. 29 from 6:30-9 p.m.

There has been an uptick in interest during the pandemic, said Lucía Cortés, Engagement Liaison for the Arlington County Department of Public Safety Communications and Emergency Management. That’s not to mention the recent spate of mass shootings in the United States.

“We’ve actually seen a significant increase in class interest over the past seven months, with enrollment increasing by 100% while increasing our class frequency to at least once per month,” Cortés said. “Over 160 people have attended our virtual trainings.”

Attendees will learn how to recognize violent activities, respond safely, provide immediate rescue tactics to the injured, and report them to 9-1-1, according to the county.

According to Until Help Arrives, the program emphasizes five steps for civilians to take during an emergency while waiting for medical assistance:

  1. Call 9-1-1
  2. Protect the injured from harm
  3. Stop any bleeding
  4. Position the victim so they can breathe
  5. Provide comfort

“The County’s CERT program was created in the wake of 9/11 by concerned residents wanting to assist their communities during emergencies,” Cortés said. “Since 2004, nearly 1,000 community members have completed ArlCERT training.”

CERT asks that interested people register to receive a link to the virtual event. Once registered, class attendees are asked to download the training materials and watch a prerequisite video.

Photo via Arlington County

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Arlington County has cancelled its popular summer classes and programs, citing concerns about the ongoing coronavirus danger.

The county’s Department of Parks and Recreation announced Thursday that the activities for everyone from tots to older adults are the latest annual tradition to fall victim to the pandemic. The county is still mulling the status of summer camps for kids and expects to make a decision in early May.

Arlington’s parks, fields, playgrounds and communities centers remain closed, though trails are open.

More on the summer program decision, from a county press release:

In accordance with Virginia Governor Ralph Northam’s Stay-at-Home order, in effect through June 10, 2020, and the “Forward Virginia” blueprint for easing public health restrictions, the Department of Parks and Recreation is cancelling summer programs for 2020.

“We recognize how important recreation is to our residents,” said Parks & Recreation Director Jane Rudolph. “We are exploring opportunities to provide modified programs and services both virtually and when our parks and community centers reopen. We appreciate your patience as we work through this difficult time.”

The following programs have been canceled for the summer 2020 session:

  • Enjoy Arlington classes
  • 55+ programs, trips and classes
  • Explore Nature & History programs
  • Summer Basketball and Adult Pick-up Soccer and Soccer Clinics
  • Summer Creative Playgroup

Regarding summer camps, the County will continue to monitor national and state guidance to determine what we can provide, with a decision coming in early May.

All Arlington County/Arlington Public Schools (APS) parks, playgrounds, fields, restrooms, tracks, dog parks and athletic courts remain closed until further notice.

Parks & Recreation’s new Recreate at Home, launched during the COVID-19 pandemic, offers a constantly updated list of fun and safe things to do at home and outside while practicing social distancing.

Everyone should take personal responsibility and practice social distancing, wear face coverings and wash their hands frequently.

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Technology is everywhere but older adults are often on the sidelines when it comes to using computers, tablets, smartphones and the internet. Arlington Independent Media’s Technology Classes for Older Adults hopes to change that.

In relaxed and fun workshops, AIM’s classes clearly explain today’s most common communication technologies. Computers, smartphones, social media, photography and the internet are among the areas covered in these informative and low cost workshops. All workshops are held from 10 a.m.-1 p.m., at Arlington Independent Media’s facility in Clarendon.

Basic Internet Literacy — Wednesday, September 26
Cost: $40.00

Whether you are new to computers or have been using them for years, our Basic Internet Literacy class will help older adults surf the internet safely and with confidence. Participants will learn the basics of web browsers, how search works, and how to create safe user names and passwords.

Smartphone Basics — Wednesday, October 3
Cost: $40.00

Designed specifically for older adults, this one-session workshop starts at the basics and teaches participants how to get the most from their smartphones.

Smartphone Photography — Wednesdays, October 10 & 17
Cost $80.00

This hands-on, two-week workshop will demystify smartphone cameras and teach participants how to create great pictures with them. Older adults will learn photo basics, picture composition, free photo apps, image editing and more.

Social Media — Wednesdays, October 24 & 31
Cost $80.00

This two-week class will provide an in-depth examination of the most popular social media platforms and help participants create a safe and secure on-line presence. Creating profiles, finding friends and family, privacy settings, on-line safety and how to avoid scams and fake news are among the topics covered in this fun workshop.

For more information or to enroll contact Jackie Steven at 703-524-2388 or visit www.ArlingtonMedia.org.

Arlington County Parks and Recreation class catalog winter 2016The Department of Parks and Recreation’s online registration process is getting mixed reviews, as many frustrated parents were unable to sign their children up for their first choice classes.

Winter class registration began yesterday at 7 a.m. for gymnastics and 7:30 a.m. for all other classes. Shortly after, users took to the ARLnow comment section to share their thoughts on the process.

“I finally got to register for the class I wanted for my kid, which now had a wait list as large as the actual class,” one parent said. “I’m glad I spent almost as much time trying to register for a class that was full than my kid would have spent IN the class had I been able to register.”

“I had a fun morning waiting for pages to load, trying to figure out if I actually signed up for a class, and after about forty-five minutes of that, wound up with my son in fourteenth place on a wait list for one of the few weekend classes available,” another wrote. “Tons of weekday classes are available, but my wife and I have this thing called work that we must do in order to live here in Arlington.”

Though it’s the primary way for residents to register for classes, the online system isn’t the only way to do so.

Residents can either mail, deliver, or phone-in their forms to the registration office. Processing for mailed forms also began yesterday morning. However, delivered or phoned-in registrations won’t be accepted or processed until Dec. 16.

According to DPR Deputy Director Jennifer Fioretti, the department upgraded its online registration software in October and moved its hosting to an outside vendor in order to combat such issues. Technological problems have elicited widespread complaints from users in the past.

However, the new system did prove successful for some.

“Just registered for several classes and it was a breeze, on Chrome,” one user said. “Sorry it was tricky for you earlier, but it seems to be working great now. Much improved from the old software.”

In an e-mail, Fioretti apologized to those who experienced problems and explained what happened:

Registration days at the Arlington County Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) are certainly our busiest. This Wednesday, we experienced significant slowdowns that caused frustration to the public. We apologize for this inconvenience. By Wednesday afternoon, we processed more than 5,000 individual class registrations, which is consistent with past years.

DPR is always looking for ways to improve and streamline the customer experience. This October, we upgraded our registration software and moved the hosting services to an outside vendor. Post-upgrade, we had several small online registrations to test the new system (nature center classes, 55+ trips and classes), which were successful. We expected similar positive results for yesterday’s Enjoy Arlington class registration. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case.

DPR IT staff worked closely with the software vendor to monitor the Enjoy Arlington registration processes. The vendor reported that key performance indicators suggested that the servers could handle the projected volume. Despite this, our registration processing speed was very low. We began seeing issues with the system just as our gymnastic registration (starts as 7:00 a.m.) was slowing down and our online registration (starts at 7:30 a.m.) for all other programs was beginning. By mid-afternoon, the system appeared to be back to normal. We are analyzing yesterday’s entire registration process minute-by-minute to determine what caused these issues. Once we know, we will develop a plan to ensure it won’t happen again.

Although some popular classes and days/times are full, many classes still have availability. We encourage people to add their names to the waitlist, as we do have cancellations. If anyone has any questions or concerns they should contact DPR Registration on the web at registration.arlingtonva.us, via e-mail at [email protected] or call 703-228-4747.

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Microphone (photo via Wikimedia)Starting in January, Arlington Public Library is offering classes for funny people who want to develop their talent into a marketable skill.

For four consecutive Thursdays, starting Jan. 8, at 6:30 p.m., prospective stand-up comedians can take a crash course in live comedy from library manager and comedian Kerby Valladares.

The classes are at Arlington Central Library (1015 N. Quincy Street), and available for online registration. According to library spokesman Peter Golkin, “space is limited and seats are going fast.”

You’ll learn how to shape your act, meet some local comics, get a feel for the area comedy scene and find out how to play to the audience,” the event listing says.

Each week, class will begin with an hour-long workshop before taking a field trip to the Comedy Spot in Ballston Common Mall for open mic night, starting at 7:30. The classes and shows are free.

Photo via Wikimedia

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CERT Training (photo courtesy Cynthia Kellems)Arlington County is still looking to fill some seats in its free, eight-session emergency response training for residents, starting this week.

The classes, which are six weeknights and two weekends, begin on Sept. 11 (Thursday) and next Tuesday, Sept. 16. The classes are held at the new fire training academy in Shirlington (2800 S. Taylor Street).

The classes cover disaster preparedness, disaster medical operations, fire suppression and utility shutoff, disaster psychology, terrorism, light search and rescue and team organization, according to Community Emergency Response Team volunteer coordinator Cythina Kellams. The session concludes with the trainees participating in a mock-disaster response.

“To date, more than 650 Arlingtonians have completed CERT training, many of whom have elected to be members of neighborhood teams available to assist the county in disasters,” Kellams wrote in an email. “Following the 2012 derecho, CERT members provided critical back-up to the county’s disabled 9-1-1 system.”

The classes are open to anyone who lives or works in Arlington and is 18 and older. If accompanied by a parent, 16- and 17-year-olds are also welcome. To secure one of the limited remaining spots, and for more information about class times, email [email protected]

Photo courtesy Cynthia Kellams

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Morning Notes

Cardinal in Alcova Heights (photo by Matt Henneman)

Home Prices Fall — Arlington was the only jurisdiction in the D.C. metro area to see a drop in home prices last month. The median Arlington sales price in November was $498,500, down 2.1 percent from last year. [Washington Business Journal]

Big Difference Between ‘Near’ and ‘Next To’ Metro Stations — It’s no surprise that real estate closer to Metro stations is more valuable, but what may be surprising is for how high a price such properties can be sold. Looking at the five stations along the Orange Line’s Rosslyn-Ballston corridor — which is deemed one of the hot areas for development — researchers found that properties one-twentieth of a mile from a station (264 feet) can fetch more than a 30 percent premium over those just a quarter mile away. [Washington Post]

Winter Class Registration Begins — Online registration for the Department of Parks and Recreation’s Enjoy Arlington winter classes began today at 7:00 a.m. Available class schedules can be viewed online. Call the Registration Office at 703-228-4747 between 8:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m., Monday through Friday, with any questions. [Arlington County]

Photo by Matt Henneman

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CERT training class (courtesy photo)Sign up has begun for fall sessions of the county’s free emergency preparedness classes.

The Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) training instructs attendees on how to respond when an emergency occurs. The skills learned can be used in a variety of situations that could occur at home — including fires and medical emergencies — as well as community situations — such as terrorist attacks, hurricanes and tornadoes.

More than 600 Arlington residents have completed the training, and they are sometimes called upon by the county to assist when emergencies occur — like during last summer’s derecho storm.

Two fall sessions will be available, one beginning on September 12 and another on September 17. Each session includes eight classes. There is limited space and advanced registration is required by sending an email to [email protected]

The classes are open to Arlington residents and those who work in the county but reside elsewhere. Participants must be at least 18 years of age, or 16 if accompanied by a parent. All classes meet at the Arlington County Fire Department (ACFD) Training Academy in Shirlington and are taught by ACFD and Office of Emergency Management staff, along with CERT members.

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