WARNER ROBINS -- When Maria Bell was preparing to help enroll her grandchildren in Houston County schools, she planned to register them at their elementary school -- the same process she went through with her own children.
But Bell soon learned she would be among the first families to use the districts new central registration office, which opened Monday in the Bert Rumble Complex at 303 S. Davis Drive.
Now, all Houston County parents will go to the same place when registering their children. Students who are new to the school district must go through the registration process.
Ive lived here quite a bit of my life, and this is all new to me, said Bell, whose daughter and grandchildren recently moved to Warner Robins from Alabama. Youve got to go with the flow,
A few families ventured Monday to the new office, which was mostly sparse that morning -- the way school officials planned it.
By opening it at this point in time, were able to work through the kinks in the process before we have a line of people when the new school year starts and during preschool registration, said Linda Horne, assistant superintendent for school operations.
Officials decided to open the office in an effort to make registration more consistent and convenient for parents, many of whom have children in different schools. The registration process often varied from school to school.
Now, all parents will go to the same place and go through the same process.
It also helps the district to have consistent student data, Horne said.
This is like a one-stop shop, she said.
When parents enter the building, they are greeted by a registration secretary, who takes their information and gives them forms to complete.
Parents go to a waiting room to finish their paperwork, and children venture to a nearby area with toys, books and puzzles. Parents then take their paperwork to office clerks, who place their children in the school system.
There are seven workers at the office, including a homeless liaison and an interpreter, and parents can visit the office from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. The office is open 242 days a year and is closed during holidays.
The real test will come next month during preschool registration, which is Feb. 19 through March 15, and the beginning of the school year. When Bibb County opened its central registration office, parents complained about long waits.
Officials realize there might be some waiting during busy seasons, but they plan to staff the office with additional workers during those times, Horne said. They encourage parents to fill out registration forms online and not wait until the last minute to register their children.
Roy Sallions did not hesitate to register his daughter for kindergarten for next school year. Next years kindergartners generally do not register this time of year, but Sallions made the effort to show up and had the right paperwork, Horne said.
Ill be done in a few minutes, Sallions said as he filled out papers in the waiting area.
Nearby, Bells daughter, Veronica Moniz, completed paperwork for her two daughters, who will both attend Miller Elementary School.
Moniz said she prefers the new registration process because fewer people will be packed inside her daughters school at the start of the year.
I think its going to be better and easier for people. It will take a lot of the (wait) time out of a lot of the schools, she said. And its more safety. You dont have a lot of strangers going into the school.
For more information and to view a list of items parents need to bring, visit www.hcbe.net/central-registration.aspx.
To contact writer Jenna Mink, call 256-9751.