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School district's digital learning days earn recognition

On November 12 the Humphrey School of Public Affairs announced the winners of its eighth annual Local Government Innovation Awards. Among them was Farmington Area Public Schools for their flexible learning days.

District 192 was one of five winning schools chosen by a panel of judges from nearly 100 entries. All 20 winners, five each among cities, counties, townships and schools, will be recognized at an awards ceremony Dec. 11 at the Humphrey School.

The Local Government Innovation Awards are given to “recognize the great work of cities, counties, schools, and townships (and to) encourage an environment of experimentation and innovation in Minnesota.” Entries are judged on their innovative qualities, impact, sustainability and potential for growth. Being an Innovation Zone and the first Minnesota school district to launch a K-12 one-to-one iPad initiative for all students has allowed Farmington Area Public Schools to approach challenges in new ways.

With an unprecedented winter season last year, schools in Minnesota were faced with the challenge of multiple school closings due to repeated days with temperatures below -20 degrees and snow storms later in the winter. While many districts took away spring break or added days to the end of the year, Farmington Area Public Schools overcame this challenge through its development of flexible learning days. Through iPad integration and digitized curriculum in Schoology, students did not miss out on learning even though school doors were locked.

Community support for the use of flexible learning days has been strong. New questions were added to the annual community survey regarding the use of flexible learning days to ensure real-time learning takes place on emergency school closures. 57 percent of respondents supported the concept of students and teachers working from home on days when weather forced school closures. Only 26 percent preferred adding school dates to the calendar. District 192 plans to continue using flexible learning days in place of snow days. Staff members will also to continue to seek feedback from community members and work to improve the process.