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New school gets Farmington board support

The Farmington School District is ready to take the next step toward opening a new kind of school next fall.

School board members voted 5-1 Monday to approve the outline of the plan and give district administrators the go-ahead to continue work on the new school. Julie Singewald was voted against moving forward.

The next step in the planning process will be to identify teachers for the new school and figure out how to handle registration.

“It’s good for the community to see you’re on board with part of this,” superintendent Jay Haugen said.

The district has been working since November on the proposed school, which would serve about 100 students in fourth through sixth grades. It would do away with traditional grade levels, instead allowing students to advance as they are ready, and would use a project-based style of learning that allows students to bring their own interests into the school day.

Some aspects of the proposed new school are already taking shape at other district buildings. As he talked during a separate agenda item about reimagining the middle school experience, Dodge Middle School principal Chris Bussmann mentioned allowing students who want to work an art class into their schedule to take the class as an independent study. In some cases, students are working on art projects in time they carve out by working ahead in other classes.

Monday’s vote was not final approval for the new-school concept, but it was a show of support administrators needed to continue trying to figure out whether the school will work. That will include identifying the teachers who will staff it.

Board members had some question about that process. The current plan for identifying teachers is to look within the district, but board members wondered how the district would handle hiring teachers for a school that might never exist when those teachers already have a job to do.

Teachers identified for the new school will continue to do their current job, but Barb Duffrin, the district’s director of educational programs, said there will be benefits to the planning process even if teachers do not ultimately end up at the new school. The planning process will be good professional development, she said.

Innovative learning director Laura Pierce and teaching and learning director Caleb Drexler Booth, who are leading the planning process for the new school, have said teachers will play a big role in figuring out some of the finer details of how the new school would work.

Board members also wondered about the costs associated with making the district’s instructional services center work as a site for the new school and whether renovations would be necessary. District administrators have identified that building’s second floor as the best location for the school but do not have plans yet for making changes.

“We need to start to have some parameters around this decision,” board member Laura Beem said.

The district will hold information meetings Feb. 18, 20 and 27 and March 3 to discuss the new school. Applications will be due by April 1. For more information visit

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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