Madison Co. Schools pick up slack for Triana students zoned in gray area: You won’t believe how long their bus ride is each day

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MADISON COUNTY, Ala. (WHNT) - If your child had to spend more than 90 minutes on the bus each day just to get to and from school, you might call that an outrage. About a dozen students and their parents living in Triana just call it a regular Friday.

Seventeen years ago when Madison City Schools split into their own district, it left some gray zoning areas on the outskirts of the town of Triana.  Madison went through the Justice Department to form its own district, and it was determined they would serve students in the Madison City limits and within the town of Triana.

"I will be quite honest with you," said Madison City Schools Superintendent Dee Fowler, "With our school already at 95 percent occupancy in our elementary schools, we are doing all we can to serve the kids who are in the city of Madison and the town of Triana."

The students aren't technically zoned for Madison City, and not zoned for Huntsville City -- they have to go to school somewhere, right? Prior to the split, these student would have attended Bob Jones High and Liberty Middle.

"This group was not included in the incorporation because they live in the incorporated areas of Triana.  So they were still Madison County students but the closest schools were the Sparkman cluster," explains Madison County Schools Director of Auxiliary Services Dan Evans. "So it's a very difficult situation for these students. Long bus rides -- they've been very, very cooperative, parents have been great but it does put these students at a disadvantage."

The Madison County Schools driver of bus 06-55 departs from Monrovia Elementary school around 5:45 a.m. each day. The first student is picked up off Highway 72 West before 6:15. The driver the spends the next hour on a loop around outer Triana before making his way to drop off the first set of students at Monrovia Elementary around 7:15.

"They ride through two different school districts to get to Madison County Schools," says Evans. "We pass through Huntsville City's district, we pass through Madison City's district -- pass several schools on the way to get to our schools.  It's a logistics problem because it doesn't matter what we do, they are still that far away from school. We can't move them any closer."

Forget logistics: the busing is a heavy financial burden on Madison County Schools, as well. Bus 06-55 runs many miles per day for a small number of students. "Typically in the Sparkman cluster we'll go to two neighborhoods and pick up 50 kids -- now we're running 50 miles and getting 12. But that's not the point; the point really is it is a burden on these children. And they do great -- they're great kids, their parents are cooperative, they're not complaining. We just understand it puts them at a disadvantage."

And you'll notice, this story is devoid of any bickering or stone throwing from angry parents.  Dan Evans says they've never had any issue with understanding and cooperation. Madison County Schools has never asked Madison City to take the students on for free. In fact, they have even offered to pay tuition for the Triana students which would include state money and the systems portion of local tax dollars.

As for as any avenue for further conversation or a forum for ideas, Evans says that would be up the three local school district superintendents. But he also says if you ask the parents, they may prefer to stay with County schools despite the daily long haul.

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