Superintendent Parker Proposes Two New Schools at 2019 State of the Schools Address


Zachary Johnson, Writer

On Tuesday night, Superintendent Robby Parker held his annual State of the Schools Address. First on the agenda was highlighting our district’s numerous accolades. First, both Bob Jones and James Clemens High School placed in the top five high schools in Alabama. Liberty and Discovery Middle Schools also placed in the top five middle schools in Alabama. Additionally, every elementary school in the Madison City Schools district placed in the top twenty elementary schools in the state.

Next, Mr. Parker promoted the addition of more language classes in lower grades. Soon, French, Mandarin, German, and Latin will be offered to 6th and 7th graders. Spanish will also be offered as early as fourth grade and will soon be integrated into all grades from Pre-K up.

Superintendent Parker also took some time to express how proud he was of the real world connections that Madison City Schools students make.

“We’re going to do a dual enrollment class with UAH. Our 8th graders are going to be able to dual enroll and get college credit. Where else can you do that?” Superintendent Parker noted, referencing finite mathematics classes that 8th graders will be able to take from UAH.

Current growth numbers in the last 5 years

Finally, Mr. Parker got down to the major focus of the night: expansion.

As it stands, Madison City Schools is under a period of extreme growth.

“Here’s our challenge,” Parker told the audience, “This year, we’ve grown by 567 kids. That’s a lot. I don’t know what to say. That’s bigger than three of our existing elementary schools! Bigger than West Madison, bigger than Madison, bigger than Rainbow. That’s significant!”

One of the greatest problems facing Madison City Schools today is overcrowding. From the slide, it’s obvious to see that there are barely enough seats in each school currently, and that’s not even to  mention the projected growth.

“Let me give you an example. At Columbia we have 101 seats. You may say ‘That’s good! We’ve got 101 seats!’ But I want you to think about this. At Columbia Elementary, there’s 42 classrooms. That would be an average of about two and a half empty seats per classroom. That’s not much,” Superintendent Parker told the audience. If the current growth rates continue, most schools will be overcrowded within two or three years.

To address this, Mr. Parker suggested building a third middle school on the same land that Central Office is built on.

“I propose we build a middle school to hold 1,200 students behind the Central Office. Why do I think that that’s a good place to put it? Number one, we own the land! It’s the difference between spending $3 million and not spending $3 million. Second, we’ve got infrastructure, we’ve got parking, we’ve got the stadium. And, this is the most important thing, I think we can zone it. My recommendation would be that 50% would go to James Clemens High School, 50% would go to Bob Jones High School. There would be three middle schools, if we build a third one. One if the middle schools is going to be split. About a third of Liberty Middle School would come here; about a third of Discovery Middle School would come here,” Parker stated.

The proposed middle school would go right next to Central Office.

The crowd winced at the prospect of another split school.

“With that said, we’re going to talk about the other option. The other option is to build it in Limestone County. That’s it. I can’t tell you exactly how it’ll be zoned, but it’ll be something like this: two thirds of Liberty Middle School would move into this school. We would take one third of Discovery Middle School and move them to Liberty. Liberty would then be a feeder school to Bob Jones and James Clemens. Somebody is going to have to split,” he continued.

Another point of contention is the current capacity of elementary schools, which are also overcrowded.

“We’re in the same situation in the elementary schools, too. If the [increase in property tax] passes, my recommendation is that we move to get these schools built in ’21. If not, we’re going to have to do some rezoning, and I really don’t want to rezone twice.”

A slide detailing the plans for expanding current high schools and constructing a third.

Mr. Parker went on to propose the school be built in the empty field next to Kroger on Wall Triana, since the school system already owns the land and much of the infrastructure to support a school is already there. The school would be mostly populated by West Madison students. The current plan involves converting West Madison Elementary entirely into a Pre-K facility. Additionally, some students may be moved from Mill Creek since it is already nearly overcrowded. The second option would be to build the new elementary school in Limestone County, which would cause more rezoning trouble and would force the dispersal of West Madison students.

The proposed new elementary school off of Wall Triana and next to Kroger

Finally, Mr. Parker addressed the situation with high schools. Without a new high school, in just three years, Bob Jones will be around 100 students from maximum capacity and James Clemens will already be about 120 students over capacity. The problem here is funding the new school. If a small increase in property tax is voted through, there still won’t be enough money to build a new high school in the coming years. Per Superintendent Parker’s presentation, the passing of the property tax increase would add an additional $12 million in funding. $10 million would go towards the construction of a new middle school and new elementary school by 2021. $1 million would go to towards high school additions, and another $1 million would go to increasing the presence of security and mental health counselors in Madison City Schools.

Superintendent Parker closed by reiterating the numerous academic accolades that Madison City Schools has already received, and, if that is to continue, school populations must be kept at manageable levels.

Finally, the full presentation can be found here, and a survey on the new plans provided by the school system may be found here.