MADISON COUNTY, Ala. - Central School, the pre-K through 8th-grade school on Ryland Pike in Madison County, is still a construction zone as students head back to class on Wednesday. Leaders worried it might cause some confusion, and they wanted to remind families of a few things before the first bell rings.
Since students left for the summer, construction crews have been hard at work on a $6 million new section of the school that will include a cafeteria, updated drop off area, and student workspaces. It is in an effort to better serve the more than 750 students who attend the school and principal Alex Hughes said it could help them stay safer too.
"The lunchroom will seat about twice what we currently can seat," he explained, and we'll be able to serve our students lunch in about half the time."
He added that when all is said and done, the improved drop-off and pick-up area will be better for students when the weather is bad, and the vehicle queueing area will be increased to give more room and keep vehicles from backing up Moontown Road.
But school officials expect a little bit of a headache for parents on the first day as they navigate the construction zone.
"Car rider lines will take a little longer. We will only be able to load and unload five students at a time as opposed to the 10 or 12 we were able to last year," Hughes explained. "As you pull up there will be four adults along the sidewalk, and they'll motion for you to pull up and to stop... We just ask that nobody unloads before they get to that area, or that no one tries to pull past that area and unload. I only want students loading in the presence of an adult."
He said typically, they would allow students to assist, but adults will be in charge of safety until the construction is over.
"In the past, we have used students for safety patrol, but while we have this construction going on, there will only be adults out here. So we'll have adults out here to help them navigate, make sure they get in the building quickly and safely," Hughes said.
Hughes assured that construction workers and equipment will not be active in the drop-off or pick-up area during times students would be there.
The construction is expected to be completed in the fall, and during fall break leaders will start moving over the lunch equipment and cafeteria supplies. The old lunchroom will become several classrooms.
"We had five portables before this started, so we were able to move all of our children inside the building with this addition," Hughes said. "Right now we have several teachers sharing classrooms, some teachers on carts. But once this is completed and the work in the old lunchroom is done, those teachers will have their own space."
He urged people to have patience, pay attention in the morning during student drop-offs and in the afternoon during pick-up at the car rider line, and overall rest assured the benefit will outweigh the trouble.
"I think it's a headache right now for us. When it's 100 degrees outside or it's pouring down rain, this is not going to be fun," he explained. "But until October when this is all done, it's going to be worth that," explained Hughes.