Colette Snowden was up before dawn last week to make sure her five-year-old daughter Sam got swimming lessons at West Shore Parks and Recreation. The rec centre signed up 2

Parents up at dawn to secure recreation slots

Colette Snowden was on her computer at 5 a.m. last Thursday, waiting to sign up her five-year-old daughter in swimming lessons.

Colette Snowden was on her computer at 5 a.m. last Thursday, waiting to sign up her five-year-old daughter in swimming lessons.

The website wasn’t letting her log on, so she hopped in the car and arrived at the West Shore recreation centre by 5:30 a.m. to register in person. There were already six people in line.

“I grabbed a coffee and went down there,” said Snowden, who lives in Colwood. “Last time I went down there to register too, then I know I can get what I want.”

West Shore Parks and Recreation has three main registrations per year, all which start at 6 a.m. and are quickly overwhelmed with parents eager to sign their children into swimming, ice skating or a myriad of activity programs. For new parents, the process can be an intimidating rite-of-passage.

“Some of the programs are full at 6:03 a.m.,” said Corey Burtini, administrative co-ordinator at the rec centre. “It keeps you on your toes.”

Most registrations take place online, but recreation staff fielded hundreds of phone calls and a steady stream of people throughout the day. By 3:30 p.m., staff had just finished returning nearly 200 phone messages regarding fall program registration.

“Every time I would clear the mailbox it would say ‘your mailbox is empty,’ then when I would pick up the receiver it would say, ‘you have several messages,’” said Bobbi Neal, community development co-ordinator at West Shore recreation.

In a single day, the rec centre signed up 1,665 children and adults for fall programs. Including after-school care, registration has logged 2,500 clients, up from 1,800 in 2010. “Within the first two hours the online registration was up 28 per cent,” Burtini noted.

The most popular programs are preschool and swimming and skating lessons, a reflection of the growing population of young families on the West Shore. Programs and lessons for school-aged children also fill up quickly.

To ease the stress on the first day of registration, Burtini suggests people talk to a receptionist at the rec centre and set up an online account, which must be done by a staff member. “We don’t allow people to make their own accounts because our database would be overloaded,” she said.

Before registering in person or on the phone, Burtini said the process goes smoother if parents research and know what programs their children want ahead of time.

Further easing the hectic fall registration, this year the recreation centre had after-school care sign up in June, instead of August alongside all the other programs. In June, parents were lined up at 4 a.m. for one of 45 coveted spots in after-school care.

“After-school care registration takes 20 to 30 minutes and signing up for yellow sea horse (swimming lessons) takes three minutes,” Burtini said. “You can see the level of frustration when someone wants to sign for lessons and are behind two people (registering for child care).”

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