MADISON, Ala. - As the first day of school in Madison comes to a close, district leaders are seeing the benefits of re-enrollment play out in each student who walks through the school doors.
"Overall, it was a great day," said Robby Parker, Madison City Schools Superintendent, of the first day of class. "We do so much work on the front end as far as re-enrollment, giving out schedules, and open houses that at 8:00 a.m. this morning, instruction started."
Madison City Schools started re-enrollment for every student in preparation for this school year. It was an effort to crack down on those who use false addresses to attend school in the city. Anyone who actually lives out-of-zone can not go to school there.
This year, Parker said each student had been vetted and the district knew with confidence that those who attended class were residents of Madison or Triana and belonged in the district.
Parker said there is no way to tell how many of those out-of-zone families were deterred from going to Madison schools because of re-enrollment, but he believes the numbers are telling:
"Historically, we grow by 250, 300 kids a year and [this year] we started right where we finished last year. I think that's a pretty good indicator that we've done a good job," said Parker. "We finished last year with 10,500 kids. We started today with 10,500 kids and that is great for us."
The growth in Madison is considered explosive. Parker believes a high percentage of Madison's residents are school students. He said that provides unique challenges.
"Madison City Schools, even though we score in the top 3 in every academic category, we have the 5th worst class size in the state of Alabama. And the reason is because we have a lot of growth but we also have students that did not live in the city of Madison through the years," Parker explained.
He said weeding out the non-residents is part of providing for the students that do live in Madison or Triana and are in-zone to attend its schools.
"It ensures that every child here is getting the full benefit of tax dollars," he said.
The re-enrollment process was not smooth, but Parker maintains that it can be difficult by nature. The district has thousands of students with unique situations. There were complications with some families, most of which he said were handled over the summer before classes began.
"It's not perfect, by no means," he said.
Still, Parker said dedicated staff at schools verified registration information all summer, and continued into Monday. Some parents came to the central office because their students were not officially enrolled, and they needed help getting into school.
"There continues to be some things we need to do better, and I want to apologize to any parent we've inconvenienced," said Parker. "I want them all to know that we're doing it [re-enrollment] because we love their children and we want their children to get every bit of resources that they can."
The superintendent believes some parents were confused about what documents to upload to complete registration, or whether they had been fully verified. He said the schools need time to verify families, so if parents waited until the Friday before school started to enroll there wouldn't have been enough time to complete enrollment Monday.
He said there were likely other glitches that were on the school system's part, or delays in enrollment as the district questioned some of the information parents were sharing to complete registration.
Re-enrollment will continue next year.
"We're going to do the same thing next year. I think for the vast majority of people, it was very easy. For some it was a 10 minute process, some a little longer," he said. "But next year, starting June 1 or maybe even prior, we are going to do it again."
We compiled these tips from Madison City Schools employees as families prepare for re-enrollment next year:
- Register on time
- Please read the information about re-enrollment before you start to complete the process
- Call the central office with any questions: (256) 464-8370
- The information at this link, including a video tutorial, can help.