The Fort Hays State University campus came back to life last week for the fall semester.


After five months of empty parking lots, it was hard to find an open parking spot around the residence halls once the move-in process began last week.


Over several days, nearly 1,300 students moved into campus housing for a fall term that began Monday.


The rapid spread of the COVID-19 pandemic led to the departure of nearly all FHSU students living in campus residence halls in late March. The university also canceled several summer youth camps that typically used university residence hall space to house campers.


Move-in day at FHSU this fall was much different than in previous years.


"I think people understand that we need to do things a little different this year," said Dave Bollig, director of Residential Life. "We had to make sure that throughout the move-in process we consistently followed university safety protocols for COVID-19, including social distancing, the wearing of face coverings and taking the time to frequently wash our hands and disinfect high-touch areas in the residence halls."


Students were emailed half-hour time slots to move into their hall. In the past, students could move in anytime during a four-hour time slot.


This year’s process worked so well that Bollig is considering following a similar format next year.


"The feedback has been really positive," he said. "There didn’t seem to be as big of rush as in the past."


Scott Grider, a newcomer to campus, was pleased with the process.


"At first, I thought the time frame wasn’t going to be long enough," said Grider, a freshman from Halstead, who moved into McMindes Hall. "But everything ran so smoothly, we had plenty of time."


After getting settled into his room, Grider went for a walk and slipped into Forsyth Library to ask for help trying to find Tiger Tech, which happens to be located in nearby Tomanek Hall.


"They were so helpful," he said, "and that sure made me feel more comfortable."


Ashley Achilles also moved into McMindes, preparing for her second year at Fort Hays State. A sophomore economics major from McPherson, Achilles lives on the Honors College floor. She said her move-in experience was a lot less hectic than a year ago.


"This is a really good idea, spreading everyone out," Achilles said. "It was just a lot less crowded, and you didn’t have to wait on carts to carry your belongings to your room."


Normally, volunteers from several offices around campus help during move-in days in a variety of ways. This year, Bollig limited the list of workers to the Residential Life staff.


"While we appreciate the help, it made more sense to limit the number of people with students moving in this year," Bollig said. "But it still ran very smoothly. We were definitely pleased."