Journey Middle School opens along with other improvements to city schools
MADISON – Summer is drawing to a close for Madison City School District students, and an exciting new school year is just around the corner for Alabama’s number one school district.
Back to school will look a little different for some students this year. Almost seven hundred students will be the first to attend the brand new Journey Middle School. City leaders gathered on Monday, July 31 to officially cut the ribbon on the new school. Journey is the third middle school in the city, joining Discovery and Liberty Middle Schools. Construction began on the $52 million school in March of 2021, and the school’s opening this year comes with much relief, having been delayed by a year due to supply chain and construction complications.
“I’ve been told it’s the largest middle school in the state, about $52 million. It’s a beautiful facility. We’re excited about getting in it,” Superintendent Dr. Ed Nichols said at a press conference on Monday.
Journey will help alleviate some of the stress on Discovery and Liberty Middle Schools by reducing their student body from 1,400 to 1,100 respectively. Nichols said that Journey shouldering part of the load will allow the district to move forward with improvements to the existing middle schools in the coming years.
“It’s also time that we haven’t had in the last few years to do some upgrades of those facilities [such as] new flooring and lighting, and we’ll start that process over the next couple years,” Nichols stated.
Overall, Nichols is enthusiastic for the benefits Journey will bring to the school district and Madison students, “Journey’s going to be an exciting start to the year. We’ve been waiting for it, and it really helps us to just have that breathing room for those students that have come in the last several years.”
Journey Middle School is one of several other changes and improvements the Madison City School District has implemented for the upcoming school year district-wide. A new wing at Bob Jones High School and the renovation of the former West Madison Elementary School into a preschool are nearing completion. New STEM and fine arts teachers have been added to all schools to expand availability for these programs. A new safety alert system, cameras at entrances to all the schools, and the addition of contracted security personnel are some of the new safety measures that will be implemented within the first few weeks of school. These improvements all look to contribute to the district’s theme this year of Empowering All Students.
“Our theme this year is Empowering All Students, and we really emphasize all and looking for ways to make sure all of our students feel connected and are engaged and have an opportunity to empower their own learning and what they can do in the future,” Nichols said.
As the district’s total number of students climbs towards 13,000, Nichols and the school board are also looking ahead to accommodate future growth with plans for an eighth elementary school and expansions to both James Clemens and Bob Jones High Schools. The new elementary school will be located on land in Limestone County annexed by the city of Madison in 2021. In March of this year, the school board authorized almost $60 million in bonds for construction of the new school. Nichols expects to present designs for the school to the board later this year and looks forward to a projected opening date in two years’ time.
All of these changes come in time for the Madison City School District to celebrate its milestone 25th anniversary and in the wake of being named the top school district in Alabama and ranked 57 out of 10,571 districts nationwide. Dr. Nichols will deliver a speech to mark the anniversary of the school district at a special breakfast hosted by the Madison Chamber of Commerce on August 9. The 2023-24 school year officially commences on Thursday, August 3.