Bibb County’s Welcome Center still busy on second day of school

Jada Wall arrived at the Bibb County school system’s Welcome Center last week to register her daughter, who was transferring from Bleckley County Middle School to Bibb’s Rutland Middle.

She thought things went well. But when she showed up at Rutland on Monday, she found out her daughter wasn’t registered.

Wall said her daughter, along with about 40 other students and parents, waited in the library Monday -- the first day of school -- until the beginning of third period.

Since she was not registered, she didn’t have a bus assignment, and Wall had to take time off from work to take her daughter to and from school Monday and again Tuesday.

“When parents are already late to work because kids aren’t registered, they shouldn’t have to leave to pick them up,” Wall said.

Wall isn’t the only parent who had problems with Bibb County registration this week.

More than 600 parents registered their children Monday at the Welcome Center, said Kimberlyn Carter, director of strategic partnerships at the Welcome Center. Fewer people showed up Tuesday morning to complete registration or transfer paperwork, but it was still busy until crowds thinned in the afternoon.

Carter expects a steady crowd through next week, with another spike around Labor Day.

While she acknowledged some issues, she said school staff members have said this year’s registration process has been the best in a long time. She also said having the Welcome Center as a one-stop shop makes it easier for families who are registering more than one student.

“It’s our first time at bat,” she said.

The Welcome Center is a new concept for Bibb schools. In years past, parents have gone to the schools to register, but now all registration is at the Welcome Center.

Families must go to the center if their children have never been to school in Bibb County or are moving to a different school zone, Carter said. Those coming from outside the district will need to bring a birth certificate, Social Security card, proof of residence, immunization form, as well as dental, vision and hearing forms.

For in-county transfers, families will need a government ID and proof of address. Students do not need to be registered at the Welcome Center if they are remaining at the same school or are moving from elementary to middle school, for example, in the same school zone.

“My No. 1 priority, my No. 1 directive is to get children in school,” Carter said.

Carter said parents moving their children from one Bibb school to another were sent to the center’s parent-teacher resource center Tuesday.

By about 1 p.m., the resource center had a few parents and others who waited to wrap up the transfer process.

Some, like Brenda Williams, said she was in and out of the Welcome Center quickly, finishing in about 45 minutes. After moving several months ago, Williams’ daughter will be switching from Howard High to Central High.

“She starts school tomorrow,” Williams said Tuesday.

Tasha Phillips, who was transferring her daughter from Springdale Elementary to Williams Elementary, said she was in and out of the Welcome Center in 30 minutes.

“They’re fine, they’re friendly,” she said of Welcome Center staff.

Others, like Chris Hawkins, remained frustrated with the registration process Tuesday.

Hawkins, who moved to Bibb County with her family from Florida a few months ago, went to the Welcome Center on Monday after mistakenly showing up to register her two children at Northeast High.

As of 1 p.m. Tuesday, she had been at the Welcome Center for about three hours, and her children had not yet been registered.

Hawkins, who has lived in several states, said she had become accustomed to registering her children at schools, not a centralized location.

“It seems like it’s a very long process,” she said.

Wall’s daughter was finally registered in school by Tuesday afternoon, but getting assigned to a bus could take up to 24 hours, Wall said.

She said the Welcome Center may be a good resource for parents in the future, but for now there are still nagging problems.

“I know the Welcome Center is relatively new as far as the process. (It’s) the first start of the school year, but there are still kinks in it,” she said.

To contact writer Andrea Castillo, call 744-4331.