MADISON, Ala.(WHNT)-When the sun comes up Monday morning it will be back to school across north Alabama. And the new academic year brings welcome relief at one of the area's largest high schools.
Until last fall, Bob Jones High School in Madison was Alabama's biggest high school by enrollment. Enrollment at Bob Jones in the 2011-12 school year topped out at more than 2,300 students in grades 10-12, with off-campus freshmen pushing the total close to 3,200. But school principal Robby Parker said an enrollment drop of close to 300 students from last year to now means Bob Jones High will actually be under capacity for the first time in years.
As expected, much of the decrease is due to James Clemens High School, which opened across town last school year. But officials said most of the 2013 graduating class exercised their option to stay at Bob Jones, delaying significant enrollment impact till now.
"We're under capacity, plenty of room for everybody, every teacher has a classroom," said Parker, who made a habit of finding room in every nook and cranny in years past. "Now we have grades 9-12, and this year we have about 1,850, which is a great number...The building is the perfect size, the building's capacity is a little over 2,000...it's easier to build relationships with less students."
Officials said Bob Jones High School will have still have about 400 more students compared to James Clemens this year, but the enrollments are expected to become almost identical over the next few years. Neither campus is expected to go too far over the 2,000 mark through 2021, but officials said redistricting is always an option if an enrollment imbalance emerges. Madison students will be required to attend where they're zoned, eliminating a one-time waiver for last year's upperclassmen who were given a choice between Bob Jones and James Clemens.
"I think we'll [Bob Jones} stay a little larger for a few years, but we're very, very close. In fact next year the numbers are showing we're going to be very, very close, if not exactly equal."