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Summer could have a new look next year

When the Farmington School District started handing out iPads to its students last fall, the idea was to change the way education takes place in the classroom. Now, the district would like to do the same thing with summer vacation.

The district is in the early stages of a discussion superintendent Jay Haugen hopes will keep iPads in students' hands -- and keep students learning -- all summer long.

The problem, Haugen said, is that students tend to regress in the months they are away from the classroom. Teachers sometimes spend the first month of a new school year just getting kids caught up to where they were in June.

"We'll test kids at the end of the year and when they come back in the fall and you literally can see the amount that students have lost," Haugen said.

With all of those new iPads currently sitting in storage, Haugen believes there is more the district can do. He imagines students taking their iPads home with them over the summer and having lessons sent out periodically to keep students engaged and keep their minds working.

It's not clear yet exactly what those lessons might look like. Haugen talks about fun projects that don't feel like homework. The kind of thing students might look forward to doing. Several districts around Minnesota and across the country already have tried similar programs, and Haugen said Farmington administrators will spend time in the coming months researching those.

Some districts also license their summer-learning programs for a fee. That could be another option for the Farmington district.

Giving students projects for the summer is not an entirely new idea. Haugen said the district currently makes 2.5 to 3 million copies so they can send elementary students home with activity packets. But teachers don't see much return from those.

"They haven't had a large impact on all students," Haugen said. "Some students do them and some students don't. We really need something much more interactive than handing them a packet."

While there is still some uncertainty about exactly what next summer will look like, Haugen seems clear it will be different than the break that just started for Farmington students.

"We just know something needs to be done," Haugen said. "It's a big piece of the puzzle."

Nathan Hansen

Nathan Hansen has been a reporter and editor with the Farmington Independent and the Rosemount Town Pages since 1997. He is very tall.

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