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Growth, security among topics at School Board Capital Planning meeting

The city’s growth into Limestone County and additional security measures were among the topics at the Madison City School Board Capital Planning Committee meeting Wednesday, July 28.

David Smith, the school system’s financial advisor, delivered the presentation to Superintendent Dr. Dee Fowler, the school board, city officials and members of the public, and the plan covered facility assessments, population projections, enrollment projections, educational programs, new construction, funding.

Enrollment for the city’s high school, two middle schools, seven elementary schools and one alternative school is expected to be 8,600 this year, but projections place the enrollment for all schools at 9,737 in the 2015-16 school year, and 10,407 by the 2018-19 school year.

Although enrollment for the system has increased every year in the last decade, the rate has slowed each year.

“What’s going to drive it is those building permits,” Smith said. “Dr. Fowler calls (enrollment projections) the speed limit, and the speed limit is going to be driven by the city.”

The economy and recent annexations have made projecting future enrollments difficult, as building permits dropped from 435 in 2007 to 285 in 2008. In 2009, after the annexation into Limestone County, permits shot up to 605, but have dropped to 174 so far in 2010.

“Until this annexation, there really wasn’t anything to develop,” Smith said.

With more space to develop, Smith said the system will need an additional high school and limit both Liberty and Discovery Middle Schools to just grades seven and eight.

The city has already begun construction on the new high school, which is scheduled to open in the fall of 2012.

With the current census projections placing the city at 60,000-65,000 residents in the next five to 10 years, Smith also said there may be a need to build an additional elementary school in Limestone County.

The committee will meet several more times before hammering out a final plan.

Among the other topics the committee is going to consider are school safety, additions to Horizon Elementary and the Central Office, technology upgrades and system-wide HVAC controls.

“Security measures are going to be one of the things we’re going to talk a lot about,” Fowler said. “We’re doing everything we can to put our money where our mouth is.”

But when it comes to growth, Fowler said it is a good problem to have.

“I don’t know if it’ll ever be over, and I don’t want it to be over,” Fowler said of the city’s growth. “I don’t want to live in a community that’s not growing.”

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