The tables in the Hays High School cafeteria were full Wednesday, but not with students gathering for lunch. The first day of Hays USD 489’s central enrollment brought parents and district staff to the building to get ready for the school year.

Only new kindergarten students and new families to the district are required to enroll through the central enrollment. Even though online enrollment has been increasing over the last three years, many families use the two-day event because of the staff available to help and so students can sign up for other activities.

“A lot of parents just come in here just to pay,” said Wilson Elementary School principal Anita Scheve.

There is an option to pay online as well.

“There are some parents we won’t see at all because they can pay online,” Scheve said.

Tables for booster clubs, Boy Scouts and other school-related information were located in the hallway. In the cafeteria, tables with laptops were available for parents to enroll their kids. Along the walls, each school had an information booth and district staff manned tables to take payments and wandered among the tables ready to answer questions or help with technical problems.

From the time online enrollment opened July 15 through Tuesday, more than 1,400 students had been enrolled. By noon Wednesday, more than 330 were added.

The online enrollment, in use for about three years, has greatly streamlined the process, Scheve said, but the central enrollment offers help to those who need it.

In the past, enrollment was conducted by building.

“You didn’t have the collective knowledge of the people in the room,” she said. “So it’s been nice here. If there’s an issue, you know exactly who to go to and you can get it resolved. I feel like as far as serving parents, we’re doing a better job,” she said.

Scheve said she was a Wilson parent before she was principal. She would often wait in line for more than an hour to enroll and had to travel to several different buildings.

It’s also a better arrangement for staff, longtime Wilson secretary Mia Knoll said. Parents would fill out packets of information on paper, and Knoll would then have to enter the data into the computer for each one.

“It’s really helped the data entry part. It’s made that a lot simpler,” Scheve said.

Those enrolling students on Wednesday agreed the process was helpful. LiCinda Hicks was enrolling her son Gavin in eighth grade on Wednesday.

“I like that I can come here and do it, because my laptop at home is broken. And it’s so nice to have people helping,” she said.

Margen Best was enrolling her nephew, Nicholas Rojas. He’ll be a junior at Hays High. She appreciated that the district had Spanish-speaking staff to offer assistance.

“This is good. This is making it so easy,” she said. “There’s a lot of Spanish people here, a lot of people asking questions. They provide a lot of people to explain to people who don’t understand.”

Enrollment continues 10 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Thursday at the high school.