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Farmington High School will leave Missota for South Suburban in 2014

Farmington High School has been accepted into the South Suburban Conference beginning in the fall of 2014.

The principals of the 10 South Suburban Conference schools accepted Farmington's application by a unanimous 10-0 vote Tuesday night. Farmington administrators will make their recommendation to the school board for final approval at a meeting next month.

Farmington athletic director Jon Summer put the change in motion when he sent an application to the executive committee of the South Suburban Conference in September. In the application, Summer outlined Farmington's programs, classifications, facilities, current enrollment and enrollment projections for the next 10 years.

The high school started the 2012-13 school year with an enrollment of 1,883 students, the second largest in the Missota Conference behind Shakopee. Summer's projections bring that number over 2,000 by 2016 and up to 2,218 by 2021. Those numbers more than double the enrollment at Missota Conference schools like Red Wing (809) and Academy of Holy Angels (741).

The South Suburban Conference, meanwhile, offers a group of schools that not only have more similar enrollment, but are also closer to Farmington. Burnsville (2,530), Prior Lake (2,154), Eagan (2,147), Eastview (2,056) Rosemount (2,013), Lakeville South (1,774), Lakeville North (1,711), Apple Valley (1,638) Bloomington Jefferson (1,543) and Bloomington Kennedy (1,275) are an average distance of 12.6 miles away from Farmington High School, compared to an average of over 27 miles for the other seven Missota Conference schools.

"We're in a unique situation where we're becoming a school that looks less like a Missota school and more like this group of schools. I feel it is a really good fit for us moving forward," Summer said. "In a lot of our programs we match up just fine with that group of schools. We're already the second biggest school in the Missota behind Shakopee and a lot of those communities are staying about the same size."

Shakopee's school board also recently approved an application to join the South Suburban, and Chaska and Chanhassen have been looking for a better fit since joining the conference three years ago. Both schools are more than 65 miles from Red Wing.

The chance for a more stable and competitive situation led to the Tigers switching conferences for the third time in the last 50-plus years. They were part of the Missota Conference from 1960 to 1983, but left for the Tri-Metro Conference in the fall of '83 when increasing enrollments in Apple Valley and Rosemount left Farmington as the smallest school in the eight-team conference. The Tigers rejoined the Missota in the fall of '98 and will likely rejoin former Missota schools Rosemount, Apple Valley, Burnsville, Prior Lake and Lakeville North (formerly Lakeville) in the South Suburban in the fall of '14.

"You're talking about some of the premier athletic and activity programs in the state of Minnesota," Summer said. "Certainly there's been great competition in the Missota, but across the board there's a competitive culture that will be new for us in this conference."