MADISON, Ala. – Limestone County residents a part of the Madison City Schools system are concerned with bus operations as newer families join the fold.
Those concerns include children sharing busses with older student and spending longer amounts of time going to and from school.
Madison City Schools have been adapting to rapid growth for some time and with more Limestone County residents coming into the system, many families wonder if changes will be made to accommodate the volume of students.
The map below (which could change soon) shows solid colored districts and some with lines through them. The gray and red crossed zones represent some families in Limestone County. These students are bused to the solid color zones with the corresponding color. Meaning they drive by closer schools on the way to their school across town. This happens because the schools need to be evened out.
“We are on the far western side and he’s being bused to the far eastern side of the district essentially. With the co-mingling that’s just a recipe for disaster,” said James Lewis, a parent.
By co-mingling, Lewis is saying in Limestone County in the mornings, elementary, middle, and high school students are sharing a bus. In the afternoon it’s middle sharing with high school, which is more common.
“They did not explain that there would be mixed elementary, middle, and high school in the morning,” said Lewis.
Several families shared their concerns about the lack of communication with parents living in the far corner of the school district. Many of them have only been in their houses for about a year and are new to North Alabama.
Because different schools start at different times, the morning commute can sometimes take an hour by bus for those living along the Limestone County route. In the afternoons, middle school students will be dropped off at a high school to wait for another bus.
“Sometimes there’s a teacher or staff member there, sometimes there’s not,” said Lewis.
Other parents told News 19 they are concerned their children are in unfamiliar places with unfamiliar people while they wait for the second bus.
John Wilson, the transportation coordinator for Madison City Schools says these concerns are news to him. He’s only heard one concern over the course of two years. He spoke with one individual last school year and felt the family came away with a better understanding of the logistical hurdles facing his department.
“They can call me. They can email me. Of course, on my email my cell phone number is on there. But they can reach out to us with a concern,” said Wilson.
Wilson says he understands the concerns. Out of Madison City Schools’ 121 bus routes, the problems you’ve heard are only on one route.
However, several subdivisions are being built along the route. A district representative told News 19 it can be hard to gauge when the houses will be fully built and ready for families to move in.
Logistically, Wilson says his hands are tied. Madison City Schools just doesn’t have enough bus drivers.
“We did this route last year because of the lack of resources we had. Namely drivers. We are doing it this way this year because of the lack of bus drivers we have,” said Wilson. Madison City Schools are down 8 bus drivers.
However, Wilson isn’t sure filling the empty jobs will present a solution. And the upcoming re-districting proposal, according to Wilson, will not fix the problems Limestone County families are having.
In the meantime the families hope the city and school board step up.
“Our people that that work in the city are expected to solve those challenges. Once we voice our concerns, it’s up to them to put solutions in place that cans serve everybody’s needs,” said Wilson.
The transportation department says they are doing their best to meet the growth of Madison. In the end, they don’t move district lines or allocate students to certain schools.
The families that spoke with News 19 plan to work with their school board representatives and city leaders to better accommodate the families moving to a new city.