Growing student population and increasing mental health services: Two pieces of Madison City Schools’ latest strategic plan

Population growth leading to higher student counts in Madison City Schools
Population growth leading to higher student counts in Madison City Schools
Published: Sep. 9, 2022 at 10:33 AM CDT|Updated: Sep. 9, 2022 at 10:55 AM CDT
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MADISON, Ala. (WAFF) - The Madison area is growing fast. More families, means more children and schools have to be prepared for quick growth.

Madison City Schools Superintendent Dr. Ed Nichols said about 300 to 400 new students are joining Madison City Schools every year. He says this isn’t impacting class size or quality because the hundreds of students are spread out over 12 grades throughout the city limits.

He says the student population could increase by 15%, from about 13,000 students to 15,000 students.

He says the school system’s biggest challenge is preparing for the growth of high school students.

Madison only has two high schools, Bob Jones High School and James Clemons High School, and Dr. Nichols says they could each have 2,500 students if trends continue.

Right now, they have about 2,000 students each.

Dr. Nichols says the system is already building schools for other age groups.

“We added Midtown that helped us,” said Dr. Nichols. “We will have a Pre-K open next year and that will open some spaces in several of our elementary schools and opening the new middle school which will really alleviate a lot of pressure on our two current middle schools. Our next project will be what we’re going to do at our high schools.”

Midtown Elementary opened in 2021 and a Madison City elementary school in Limestone County is being designed right now.

School leaders want to take a holistic approach to improve the classroom. While they are accounting for their growing student population, they are also expanding mental health services and have training available for teachers.

WAFF's Megan Plotka reporting

The Madison City School system has a partnership with The Enrichment Center and three internal counselors on staff.

Dr. Nichols says the system is expanding counseling services. They will be available for more hours and days this year.

Their state-mandated mental health coordinator will help oversee the services.

They have a very popular service for teachers as well. That’s a multi-day training course that helps teachers recognize and handle mental health concerns. Dr. Nichols says they already had two seminars this summer and they were completely full. He says there’s a lot to learn.

“It talks about just signs of mental health but it also talks about how we communicate, how we affirm, how we tell folks we have these services and we don’t want those just with our counselors,” explains Dr. Nichols. “Because we want our students to be able to interact and get those services and know who can address those and take them to them.”

A reminder for parents: if you want your children to have access to mental health services, you need to sign a new form this year. This is because of a new state law that was recently implemented

There are several more priorities on Madison City School’s strategic plan. Those are available here.