MADISON, Ala. - Madison City Schools will likely rezone within the next year or two, for the sixth time since it was created. Superintendent Robby Parker said while the plan is still being developed, it's necessary to buy some time to combat overcrowding in elementary schools.
"I've been the superintendent for 34 days," he said. "But we don't have a choice. We've got to do something."
Mill Creek Elementary needs some immediate relief. The school system will move 6th grade into middle schools to help out the intermediate schools, but that only buys them a year before student populations rise to capacity again. Parker said rezoning is a solution to gain more time until the school system can find a way to build more schools.
"There may be a small, piecemeal rezone," he explained, noting that it's unlikely this upcoming year would see a full-scale rezoning system-wide. "We're not 100% sure we're going to have to even do anything yet this upcoming year," said Parker. "We're still looking at all the data."
Parker came to Monday's Madison City Council meeting to let the council know the school board was developing a plan for future rezoning.
He said he has several goals:
- To get every student a seat in school
- To affect as few students as possible
- To relieve Mill Creek Elementary
- To work as a group in the best interest of students
"We're going to make the best decision for all 10,000 kids," he said. "We love them. We are going to take care of them."
He said it's possible they will take zone lines and shift them East, or manipulate the zones around emerging housing developments that are still in their infancy.
Rezoning is a word that makes many uneasy. Some parents came to voice their frustrations. One man said he would rather his students not drive past one high school on their way to a different one.
Another explained that he purchased his home in a new development so his children could attend schools in a specific feeder pattern.
"I do want my children to go to the school they are currently assigned to," he said. "That's why I moved there. That's why most of the parents over there moved there. Is that a little selfish? Yes, it is. I'm sure no one will want to move their children. I'm just being honest."
Some parents questioned the possible rezoning, if it only provides temporary relief.
School board member David Hergenroeder said, "We don't have the funding for a long-term solution. Somebody said this was a short-term solution. That's true. We do not have funding to build another school. We can't balance demographics just by sending everybody to the closest school in their community. If we do that, we will have 'have' schools and 'have not' schools."
He encouraged parents to come to school board meetings.
Meanwhile, Madison's growth is expected to explode. Expanding developments will put pressure on schools over more time as people move to Madison.
"It's a great problem to have,"commented Parker.
Mayor Paul Finley said the city still needs to resolve the Limestone County tax issue, a dispute over school funding from residents there who attend Madison but pay Limestone County instead. The growth in Madison is still continuing, but the city has 5-6 housing developments on hold until they resolve the tax situation which is in mediation.