The New and Improved FPS

Morgan Berg, Reporter

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Throughout recent years, Farmington Public Schools (FPS) has gone through many changes. They have switched from middle school to upper elementary school and back all within the past seven years. This past year the decision was made to remodel Dunckel into a Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) school, but the biggest change of all could possibly be the closing of Harrison High School. They announced the planned closure in early 2016, which was followed by a flood of emotions and questions, some of which have been answered by superintendent Dr. George Heitch.

“The main reason for Harrison’s closing is the loss of student enrollment,” Dr.Heitch said. “Last year we had about 1,000 graduates, but we only brought in about 650 new students.”

With the disproportionate loss and gain of many students, there would not be enough students to fill all three high schools. The close should reduce travel and help with scheduling certain classes since students would not have to travel between buildings that are not supported at their home school.

There have been many questions surrounding the distribution of teachers and students. North will be gaining some new faces, not just students. “We are hopeful for no loss of teachers. The goal is that they will be equally distributed between the schools.” Heitch said.

Many community members were very passionate about the closing of Harrison. Many people wanted it to be a soft close, where Harrison would stop enrolling freshman and then close when there were no more students left. Dr. Heitch explained that FPS was hopeful that there might be space at North Farmington high school (NFHS) and Farmington high school (FHS) to immediately close Harrison but ultimately they came to the conclusion that Harrison would have to hard close in 2019. All current and incoming students will be distributed between NFHS and FHS, similar to the teachers. All in all, FPS is trying to entice new students and cater to their current ones. There are great educational offerings at all schools, such as the International Baccalaureate program and the new Dunckel STEM school.

New to this year is the Instructional Support Time (IST). IST is a K-12 concept. In the high schools, IST is every Wednesday for 50 minutes. Although IST is run differently among the schools, the purpose is the same. IST is meant for student support and enrichment. Tests are taken, homework is finished, and questions are answered all to benefit the students.

Many new things are still to come in FPS compliments of the bond that the community passed in May 2015. This past summer Gill Elementary, Forest Elementary, Lanigan Elementary, and East Middle School received school improvements, along with small projects at FHS and NFHS. Each school has a planning team and they decide what improvements each school will receive. All schools should be aquiring new roofs and parking lots along with new technology. The money is not split equally among the schools, it will go to whatever schools need it most.

With so much changing for the students and schools, comes changes with teachers too. Teacher contracts are currently under renegotiation. “How do you let people know you value them without cash?” Heitch asked.

With low enrollment, it is important to value teachers and pay them a livable wage. There has to be a way for teachers to feel valued and the district can save money. Only time will tell what will come of the teacher contracts. For now, students should try to show how much they value and care for their teachers.

With all the changes in FPS, comes new beginnings. This may seem bleak and bad, but in the end the district and teachers will come to an acceptable agreement for both sides. Money will be saved, schools will be updated, and a new and improved Farmington Public Schools is coming. FPS is a work in progress, that needs time, but will continue to blossom into something great.

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