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‘Antiquated’ software means Burnaby parents line up for hours to register for city programs

The city says fixing online program registration is its number 1 priority after an "unacceptable level of customer service."

An “antiquated” software system run by the city is causing major headaches for parents trying to register their kids for rec programs in Burnaby.

More than 600 parents lined up in person at Burnaby rec centres on Wednesday morning to sign up their kids for swim classes, the city’s parks and recreation general manager told the NOW.

The new GM of parks and rec, Mary Morrison-Clark, said part of the problem is the city’s “antiquated software system” and called the issue “unacceptable.”

The city has used the current software program for almost 30 years, according to a recent staff report.

Morrison-Clark said the city is planning to bring in a new online registration system as soon as possible.

“What I saw this week as GM is a completely unacceptable level of customer service, and I can do nothing but apologize to the residents of Burnaby because this shouldn’t happen again,” she said.

Do early birds get the worm?

Burnaby parents lined up at 6 a.m. at Bonsor Recreation Complex on Wednesday, with some taking the day off work, to get the chance to sign their kids up for a coveted spot in swimming lessons.

By 8 a.m., almost 100 Burnaby parents were lined up.

Multiple parents expressed frustration with the city’s online and phone registration system.

Sandeep Nair came to Bonsor Wednesday morning at 6 a.m. to sign up his two sons. Registration was set to start at 10 a.m.

Nair said he has been registering in-person for the last two years, as it’s a better option than using Burnaby’s online registration system.

“By 9 (a.m.) the website crashes,” Nair said. “You can’t get through online, and by phone you can’t call because they’re all busy. You can’t get through by phone at all.”

He said he’s lost out on signing up for classes in the past.

“It is across every centre in Burnaby,” Nair said, and added, “Everyone is busy. You won’t be able to get in touch with them until at least 11:30.”

“You won’t get a spot.”

Navdeep Gill also came early in the morning to Bonsor to sign up her daughter.

At 10 minutes to 10 a.m., she held out her phone displaying a white screen with black text: Burnaby’s online registration page error message. “Having trouble registering?” read the screen.

Gill tried registering online for recreation classes on Monday and couldn’t get a spot. So, on Wednesday, she took the day off work to come in person.

But she wasn’t able to get her daughter registered. “There was no slot left,” she said.

City wants software sooner

The target date for the new software had been set for this fall, but now Morrison-Clark said she wants to speed up the timeline.

“The only thing left to do is to go aggressively to bring that date of the software implementation forward so we don’t have to go through this again.”

She said her department is going to “aggressively push” to have the new software system in place by July, with an “all hands-on deck” approach to get the software ready by the next registration period. She said the software registration is her number 1 priority in the next four months.

The total capital cost for the new cloud-based software, called ActiveNet, is $3.15 million, according to the staff report. It will have an ongoing annual operating cost of $411,000.

As for Gill, she said next time registration comes, she plans to go in-person earlier.

“My daughter loves to swim, and I would keep trying.”