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Farmington district may offer new "choice school" next year

  • Blog Post by: Erin Adler
  • November 26, 2013 - 12:51 PM

The Farmington district is taking steps to provide students with a “choice school” next year, in an effort Superintendent Jay Haugen said is part of the district’s emphasis on trying new things.

Haugen shared the idea for the choice school — an option involving self-directed learning and letting kids learn at their own pace — at the Nov. 25 board meeting. A committee will begin meeting to discuss and design the school on Dec. 5.

It would emphasize creativity and critical thinking, he added, with teachers acting as guides and students using iPads to learn.

“I think what we’re sure of is we’re going to design it,” he said. “We’ll make our best run at opening it next year.”

The school would probably serve kindergarten through grade 8, with the first students in fourth through sixth grade. The goal would be to have 100 students enrolled at the district’s Instructional Service Center, where there are empty classrooms.

Kids in grades four through six are just beginning to develop strong interests, making it the perfect age to transition to the new school, he said.

“But part of the design is, are we even going to call them grades?” he asked.

In recent years, the district has tried to emphasize technology and taking risks. Farmington was among the first districts in the metro area to issue all students iPads and was designated an Innovation Zone last spring by the Minnesota Department of Education, in partnership with the Spring Lake Park district.

“This is exactly the stuff we’re trying to do district-wide,” said Haugen of the school.

Haugen cited the Lakeville district’s Impact Academy and an Edina choice school as models.

At the board meeting, Haugen shared this year’s districtwide enrollment numbers, which include about 265 students living in other districts choosing to enroll into Farmington schools.

But there are also 1,198 students who live in Farmington that leave the district, enrolling elsewhere.

Haugen said that getting some of those students, who are mostly elementary-aged, to enroll back in the district is an ongoing goal, and creating a new kind of school would be part of that effort.

The idea for the new school “literally came up about two weeks ago,” he said.

“But we pride ourselves on being nimble as a school district,” he said.

Schools sometimes “spend way too long up front” researching an idea, rather than just trying it, he said.

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