MADISON, Ala. - Madison City Schools is preparing for another school year that begins on Wednesday. In the meantime, the school system is monitoring enrollment numbers and other sources of information to determine how full the schools will be this year and finding space for classrooms wherever they can.
Hannah Lingerfelt is teaching her first year of classes in Mill Creek Elementary.
"I want it to be a warm, inviting, fun space for them to feel at home when they come into my classroom," she said. "I've got all kinds of colors happening and, really excited about decorating."
We found her putting the finishing touches on her classroom. She showed us around, including where her desk and "book nook" are, along with a stage where students can practice presenting to one another. But one month ago, this classroom didn't exist.
"This was actually a Pre-K gym," she explained. "They have built a wall splitting the gym in the middle and turned it into two classrooms."
"We've had to take teacher workrooms and make them classrooms," noted Superintendent Robby Parker. "We've got teachers at James Clemens and Bob Jones that are floating. That's ok. They're going from classroom to classroom. Everybody does not have a classroom, but every kid will have a classroom. Every student who comes in, we will be prepared for them and we are very excited."
The district has already explained its growth is not just likely, but definitely going to exceed the numbers from last year on the first day of class. Already, the district is expecting possibly a net gain of around 300 students on the first day, but Parker noted that it's too soon to really tell.
"We don't know until the first day of school what the numbers are going to be," he explained. No school system knows the true number of enrollment until the students come in the door on the first day.
But the expected numbers seem to grow by the hour.
Parker said today that he joked, "'Have we grown since lunch?' And the answer was yes, we had grown 15 students since lunch," he remarked. "We make students reregister every year, so we have an accurate count from that. But we have new students that register and come in too."
The district is seeking a 12-mill ad valorem tax increase to fund new school buildings it needs to remain a top school system.
"We have to keep up with the growth. We have to find a place for everybody to be taught," Parker explained.
The district has been proactive about this from the start. The school board continues to do so, planning a special called meeting for Tuesday just in case they need to hire more teachers at the last minute.
"We have tipping points and we continue to look at it... We have people registering every day," Parker said. "I want the parents to know that we are ready. No matter how much growth we have, we are ready, we are excited."
He said he can't wait to get the students back in their chairs, ready for learning.
"There's nothing sadder than an empty school in August," he stated.
The district encourages parents to make sure they've reenrolled students.