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“It’s things that haven’t even been thought of yet,” Cassellius said. While the meaning is different for every district, the goal is to motivate schools to try new things by waiving certain state requirements, she said.
For example, if Farmington and Spring Lake Park were collaborating to offer an online class and thus sharing students, being an Innovation Zone could “remove the strict boundaries on teacher licensure — who teaches in which district and how they’re coded — or in calculating enrollment,” Cassellius said.
However, the districts are “not relieved of any testing burden,” she said.
Another aspect of the state’s aims with the Innovation Zone relates to workforce development, Cassellius said.
The South Central Education Consortium, the other group of districts that received the designation, plans to offer apprenticeship programs. Being an Innovation Zone will let them calculate credit hours differently and allow members of the business community to teach classes that still meet graduation requirements, she said.
Farmington and Spring Lake Park are still in the planning phase, meeting regularly to iron out details, Haugen said. Last week he began creating the “request for proposal” forms that teachers can fill out if they have a new idea to try.
He believes being an Innovation Zone will “free our teachers to do that which they love — why they got into the profession in the first place,” he said.
Whatever they try, the state will be constantly evaluating their work, even acting as a third partner, he said.
Haugen said he’s excited for the innovation to begin.
“We really do think we’re up to the challenge,” he said.
Erin Adler • 952-746-3283