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As the 2018-19 school year approaches, Madison County schools joined together to gather supplies for students who may need a little extra help with their back to school purchases.

The Madison County Stuff the Bus program consists of both Fredericktown R-I and Marquand-Zion R-VI districts working together to ask for donations from the community in the form of notebooks, pencils, crayons, glue and anything else which is on the supply lists handed out to students.

This year's event was held outside the Fredericktown Walmart Aug. 4. Representatives from both schools sat outside, next to a big yellow school bus and spent the day "stuffing" it as full as they could.

"It has been wonderful to work with Fredericktown School District and the other organizations associated with the Madison County Stuff the Bus Program," Marquand-Zion Superintendent Scott Blake said. "The group has been working together for the past four years. Every member of the group is dedicated to providing the best for the children."

Supplies can still be donated during regular business hours to any of the school building offices.

Teachers and staff will now spend a day filling backpacks full of supplies to hand out to children who registered for the Aug. 9 back to school fair, 5 to 7 p.m., at Kelly A. Burlison Middle School.

"The two school districts are able to pool the supplies and make sure every student that signs up gets the maximum amount of school supplies available," Blake said. "The local businesses, area organizations, and community members are very generous in the support for the education of the children in Madison County."

Both school districts have seen some changes over the summer.

Marquand-Zion has a new roof and parking lot while Fredericktown has been able to complete the projects at the intermediate school including new HVAC and LED lighting.

"The new addition is now considered substantially complete with the new pavement," Fredericktown R-I Superintendent Brett Reutzel said. "The original building upgrade was also completed which included an overhaul to the HVAC in the building as well as installation of new LED lighting."

Blake said, due to the passing of a no tax increase general obligation bond in April, the school was able to repave the main parking lot and put new roofs on the elementary and middle school buildings. 

"I would like to thank the community for supporting the school district," Blake said.

Looking ahead to the start of the year, some changes will be seen to the districts, Marquand-Zion will move its start time from 8 a.m. to 7:45 a.m., and Fredericktown will see some lunch price increases and a change to the intermediate school pick-ups.

"Classes will begin at 7:45 a.m. on Monday through Friday for the 2018-19 school year," Blake said. "Marquand-Zion implemented the Break After the Bell program two years ago at the elementary and last year at the high school."

Blake said the elementary goes to breakfast after attendance is taken for the day and the high school goes after first hour.

"We have seen a large increase in participation with these changes, but we needed additional instructional time prior to lunch," Blake said. "We looked at extending the day 15 minutes, but, at the present time, will continue to dismiss at 3 p.m."

Reutzel said pick-ups and drop-offs will remain the same at all locations other than the intermediate school.

"Parents will continue to enter the campus from Cap A Drive but will drop off students at the entrance into the new addition and turn to go out on the same drive by which they entered," Reutzel said.

Lunches at Fredericktown will see a slight increase. Reutzel said the increase is due to compliance with DESE standards calculated by the Paid Lunch Equality Tool. 

Due to Marquand-Zion's participation in the Community Eligibility Program (CEP), all students in the R-VI District will eat breakfast and lunch free of charge.

Both districts have seen staff changes and are adding new extra-curricular activities for their students. Fredericktown will see the addition of Cross Country to its roster of fall sports and Marquand-Zion is excited to see band being offered again this year. 

"Marquand-Zion was fortunate to hire some very talented and experienced staff for the 2018-19 school year," Blake said. "We are very excited to begin offering band again this year. Mr. Vetter, the new music teacher, will begin 5th-8th grade band this year."

"I think every school year is a transition, regardless of the number of new staff," Reutzel said. "It is a chance to start fresh. While some things may be old hat, I believe as educators we are obligated to continue to learn ourselves. We need to constantly evaluate our performance and acknowledge we can always be better and implement new or different means to do that."

The first day of classes for both districts is Aug. 16 and teachers and staff are already busy preparing their rooms and participating in training events to improve the safety and educational experience for their students.

"I am excited to start another new year," Reutzel said. "Every year offers our students and staff another opportunity to learn something new, discover a new interest, talent or skill that they did not know they possessed, or continue to perfect one to unexpected levels. I look forward to the year to see what our students and staff can achieve."

Victoria Kemper is a reporter for the Democrat News. She can be reached at 573-783-3366 or at


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