Madison City Schools celebrates 20th anniversary
MADISON — Madison City Schools celebrated its 20th anniversary as a school system Tuesday night at James Clemens High School with student showcases and a presentation of Superintendent Robby Parker’s 10-year plan.
Attendees traveled down “Main Street” inside James Clemens High School during the first hour to see creative booths from Madison City Schools and hear excited students talk about what makes each school special.
Madison’s elementary students explained the various programs and activities they take part in at their respective schools, often with informational sheets to hand out, as well as photos and presentation boards on display.
At Columbia Elementary’s booth, the school’s drama club performed songs from the junior version of the musical “Annie” while student ambassadors from ES2S stood by to explain more about their club.
Sharply dressed students from Heritage Elementary, who were accompanied by their mascot, told visitors about the difference between their school’s clubs and teams.
Madison Elementary students displayed photos and videos of initiatives such as robotics, a makers space and their outdoor classroom. For the outdoor classroom, students brought in a caterpillar, as well as a butterfly in its chrysalis stage. Two students said it could emerge “any day now, either tomorrow or next week.”
Both Mill Creek and Rainbow elementary schools showcased their six different “houses” at school and what it means to be a part of each one. Rainbow’s houses are called “space stations” and are named after different spacecrafts: Mercury, Gemini, Apollo, Voyager, Skylab and Cassini. At Mill Creek, their houses have the names of character traits: Responsible, Citizenship, Trustworthy, Respect, Fairness and Caring. Students can earn points for their house for being a good student and doing good deeds around the school. At the end of the year, the house with the most points gets their house name engraved on a space at the base of a large trophy.
In addition to houses, Rainbow’s chess team and students were present to talk about their activities. For Project Lead the Way (Launch), the STEM program, students even demonstrated the spread of germs using a special lotion and a blacklight. Each grade level receives 40 minutes of STEM time per week explores one subject per semester.
With an increase in focused electives over the years for high school students, Bob Jones and James Clemens featured classes from culinary arts to biomedical sciences. Middle schools Discovery and Liberty also displayed their classes and programs through art and video.
As students and teachers showcased their schools’ booths, attendees also had the chance to catch a preview of both Discover Middle School and Liberty Middle School’s choir programs before Parker’s presentation.
Before Parker began, James Clemens principal Brian Clayton and Bob Jones principal Sylvia Lambert recognized the students from each of their schools who are National Merit semifinalists. Both James Clemens and Bob Jones had 15 semifinalists each, tying for the top spot in the state of Alabama.
In his presentation, Parker aimed to answer two questions: how much will it cost to expand, and will we have to rezone?
Parker said Madison City Schools is ranked No. 2 out of all school districts in Alabama, behind Mountain Brook. However, Madison is also one of the fastest growing school districts in the state, contributing to MCS also having one of the highest class sizes—one of the worst in the state.
“We’re not funded for that,” Parker said.
Since May, MCS has grown by 428 students. As a reference, Parker said West Madison Elementary School holds 500 students overall.
“We’ve got the best teachers in the state in the city of Madison,” Parker said. “We’ve got the best [parents], we’ve got the best kids … but we can’t continue to sustain these class sizes.”
“For sure,” Parker said MCS will need a new elementary school within the next three years and a new middle school within the next five. Within the next seven years, both high schools will need to be expanded at a minimum. If the population of Madison reaches 65,000 within the next 10 years, a new high school will need to be built.
The cost of the new elementary school is estimated at $34 million, while a new middle school will amount to about $49 million. To expand Bob Jones and James Clemens, the price tag will total about $17 million, while building a new high school altogether will have a grand total cost of about $120 million.
According to MCS’ website, funding will be assessed by the Growth Impact Committee, which the mayor’s office launched. It is headed jointly by a school board member and a former councilman. “They are considering all options and will make recommendations,” the website reads.
Parker noted that despite these issues that have arisen, “growth is not bad.”
According to Parker, MCS will “maybe” have to rezone. Last time MCS rezoned, Parker said the amount of people affected was less than 1 percent.
“If we have to rezone to get kids into schools—and I’m not trying to scare you, I’m not trying to be overly dramatic—but it’ll be 30-40 percent of the population,” Parker said. “It will get tough … the rezone will be much tougher if we’re not able to grow organically.”
In other items, Parker said he plans to continue to expand the curriculum to prepare students with high-interest electives. He also plans to have a school resource officer in every school in the district.
Parker said there will be follow-up community meetings. There will be two meetings in October: Oct. 3 at Horizon Elementary School and Oct. 23 at Heritage Elementary School. Both meetings will be from 6-8 p.m. Parker also encouraged the community to give feedback and voice their opinions and ideas. To give feedback or access Parker’s presentation, visit madisoncity.k12.al.us.
“Your children could become America’s best … my kids went through Madison City Schools, K-12, and got the best education they could have possibly gotten because of the people that came before me,” Parker said. “Now it’s our time. What are we going to do?”