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The Future of Madison City Schools: Plans and Projects

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Madison City Schools' Central Office

Madison City Schools' Central Office

Ashton Jah

Ashton Jah

Madison City Schools' Central Office

Ashton Jah, Writer

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Because of Madison’s close proximity to the Redstone Arsenal and Cummings Research Park, the Madison City School district has grown at an exponential rate over the past few decades, causing the school system to hit its peak.

There is no doubt Madison’s striking school system has played a part in the attraction of new residents, families, and businesses. The Madison City School system is home to 13 schools and nearly 10,500 students. With the current influx of students, the rate of progression by Madison City was too slow to accommodate the population increase; which, in turn, meant some changes needed to take place.

“We’re growing at a fast rate, and with growth comes many challenges. The biggest challenge we are facing is that we do not have enough room for everyone,” Superintendent Robby Parker stated. “[Because of our growth], we are in a constant state of building, and right now we have a lot of debt for these new buildings and additions.”

Parker also stated that because of the influx, Madison City Schools has the highest debt per student rate in the state of Alabama. The city of Madison has worked to maintain the budget for the school system by increasing revenue and compounding the budget.

On March 7th, 2017, the Madison City Schools’ Board of Education came to the general consensus to begin moving the sixth grade class of 2024 to the two middle schools, Discovery and Liberty, to help with the overflow that was occurring in the elementary schools. Prior to making the decision, they were faced with two options: rezoning, which had already been done many times already, temporarily expanding elementary schools by creating portables, or by moving sixth grade to middle school, which would open many classrooms.

However, with new changes comes the necessity for more space, meaning more classrooms and an expansion of the middle schools. Fortunately, Discovery has already been equipped with an extra floor of classrooms from when it was Bob Jones High School in 1996, then was later used for the 5th and 6th grade students that were housed at the school in the early 2000s. But unfortunately, Liberty is not in a similar situation. Renovations are now underway for expansions to the gymnasium and cafeteria at Liberty, with the addition of 16 new classrooms.

Overgrowth in schools is not new to the Madison City school system. In 2008 the school Board motioned to build another high school to solve the overcrowding situation at Bob Jones. By the 2012-2013 school year, James Clemens was opened and a rezoning took place to help maintain the issue.

On March 29th, Parker released a statement, highlighting, “This is a good move academically for our students and will also help us balance our enrollment from our near-capacity elementary schools and our two middle schools.”

To help make the move flow smoothly, Madison City has established a Transition Committee composed of teachers, administrators, counselors, parents, multiple board members, and special education representatives.

Dr. Heather Donaldson, the Madison City School’s Chief Academic Advisor, leads the committee with the open-mindedness to “brainstorm ideas that prove the best benefit.”

Parker and the 6th grade transition committee have made plans to build a curriculum for the students at the middle schools and to give more opportunities, stating, “By moving the sixth graders up they have a lot of opportunity to take classes now that they are currently not able to take.”

In addition to the sixth-grade addition, Parker has also continued programs to help students succeed.  “We want our students to be able to compete universally, and we believe we can provide them with the education here in Madison,” he stated.

In tune with the school system’s motto, “preparing students for global success,” the School District’s goals include: situating the Special Education program, and ensuring that students are familiar with a secondary language by the time they graduate.

Recently, the Special Education program has been scattered out throughout three schools: Mill Creek, Columbia, and Rainbow Elementary; meaning, students would have to constantly be moving schools. Fortunately, the system decided to simplify the program to two schools: Columbia and Rainbow, allowing them to continue their Elementary years mostly all the way through and transfer to James Clemens for secondary schooling to ensure they are with their neighborhood friends throughout the duration of their schooling. Because of this change, they are currently hosting renovations at both Columbia and Rainbow to provide special needs-equipped classrooms, ensuring the same experience for students at both campuses.

Ensuring a secondary language by graduation was another program Parker wanted to accentuate for the future of our system. Madison City Schools has recently implemented a Spanish foreign language program in the Elementary schools and is currently allowing students to take French, Spanish and Latin in middle schools.

“All research states that younger students make faster gains in second language attainment than older students,” Bob Jones Foreign Language teacher, Mrs. Clough mentioned. “I think Mr. Parker’s support and belief in this program can really set Madison City schools apart from others in the state. It will give our students great advantage.”

In addition to the Special Education and foreign language programs, Parker also wants to improve math in the schools system-wide. “We are a math and science community, and in our elementary schools, we have not been doing a great job to keep them going in the future. We are going to try and give them more opportunities so we can allow our top students to run,” Parker stated.

“We are a math and science community, and in our elementary schools, we have not been doing a great job to keep them going in the future. We are going to try and give them more opportunities so we can allow our top students to run,” Parker stated.

A math enthusiast since first grade, Junior Corey Tolbert mentions, “The motion to improve math in early education will be beneficial to some students; however, kids have to be willing (and committed ) to learn more and know how to utilize that information. Introducing a higher level and accelerated course [that would be optional] will allow those who are currently committed to improve in the subject at a faster rate.”

Although it may take a few years for Madison City Schools to reach its [goal] peak with the 6th grade addition and the Special Education programs, Parker is continuously emphasizing the importance of creating the ideal place for students generation after generation and ensuring students are prepared for global success.

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The Future of Madison City Schools: Plans and Projects