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Farmington district enrollment growing at slow, steady pace

After a few years of rapid growth, which spiked in 2012, the Farmington Area School District is starting to see its enrollment numbers slip back to a slower, steadier pace.

"On average, we're gaining about 100 students a year," said Superintendent Jay Haugen while delivering his enrollment report at the Oct. 24 school board meeting.

The kindergarten enrollment in 2012 was 582. In 2013, it evened out at 554 and then increased again in 2014 to 560.

In 2015, enrollment was down to 503 and in 2016 it was 514.

Haugen followed the influx from 2012 through the years, showing how the graduating class of 2025 continues to be the district's largest class.

This year, that class is in the fourth grade with a total of 606 students.

Overall, the district has 7,074 students.

Enrollment is important to school districts because state funding is determined by how many students attend.

According to the Minnesota Department of Education, Farmington had 7,138 students in the 2014-15 school year. The district received $9,423 per student which went into its $67 million general fund.

Haugen said being in a position of slow growth is best because it gives the district time to adjust.

He predicts growth to continue at this rate.

"There's a lot of development going on here in Farmington," he said. "I think we're going to grow at a pretty constant rate for some time."

One way he plans to accommodate more students is to make better use of the existing school buildings, which he said are used six-and-a-half hours a day, 170 days out of the year.

"How can we use our buildings more so we can naturally grow into them?" he asked. "I just want to put this on everyone's radar."

Minorities make up about 16 percent of the district's population. And, although free and reduced lunch demand has gone down by about 202 students (at 1,046 this school year), students with English as a second language has increased by 36 (at 210 total).

Hagen said about 733 students within the district's boundaries chose to go to school elsewhere last school year, while 262 chose to come to Farmington from different schools.

"The word of the day is choice," Haugen said, listing off the many options available to students, such as magnet schools, online options and homeschool.