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Proposed ‘school of choice’ is coming quickly in Farmington

You can do a lot with a text message. You can say hi to a friend, set a meeting, even create a whole new school.

On Monday, Farmington superintendent Jay Haugen presented a vision for what he called a school of choice to be housed in the district’s instructional services center. The 100-student school will be the distilled essence of the district’s strategic plan, although exactly what that means is still up for debate.

Monday’s meeting was just two weeks after a district staff member raised the idea of the new school to Haugen.

“I think I got a text, ‘Hey, we should start a new school,’” Haugen said.

The process has moved quickly in the days since that text was sent, and it doesn’t seem likely to slow down anytime soon. An email went out to district parents Monday night announcing the new school and five daylong planning meetings to take place Dec. 5, 6, 9, 10 and 13. The group’s goal will be to present a recommendation to the board at its Jan. 27 meeting and have the new school ready for students starting next fall.

The membership of the design team will be finalized Dec. 2. Interested parents can register at

Haugen likes the idea of moving quickly. He describes it as the kind of rapid prototyping manufacturers do: find a group of people who know what they’re doing, let them work and know that they will figure things out while they go, even as there are some bumps along the way.

The district did something similar as it rolled out its iPad program, signing up a group of early adopters even before it knew for certain its network could support them.

“When people are excited to do something, having them wait really throws cold water on it,” he said.

The district isn’t starting from scratch, either. Haugen said the people doing the planning at least early on are already working in their own classrooms on some of the innovative methods likely to show up in the new school.

Those methods include the kind of customized education the district has focused on since putting an iPad in every student’s hand, using technology and helping students identify their spark — the thing that gets them excited about learning.

District communication specialist Jim Skelly said the new school, likely to be K-8, might include a continuous-education model that eliminates traditional grade levels and allows students to advance at their own pace.

Because the school will use an existing building and existing district staff, Haugen does not expect it result in extra cost.

In some ways, the new school could be a kind of test kitchen for the rest of the district, allowing teachers to try ideas on a small scale before introducing them to the district as a whole.

“Probably the biggest benefit for the school district is the learning we get out of this,” Haugen said. “I think this will be a great choice for some of our students and families.”

Other business

After holding three public meetings to discuss its proposed attendance boundary changes, the Farmington School Board expects to make a decision at its next meeting Dec. 9.

The attendance boundary committee met Monday to discuss feedback from the public meetings and decided not to make any changes to the three proposed options. It will bring all three options back to the board next month along with a recommendation for the option committee members feel is best.

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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