Demographic changes and enrollment decline: Heitsch explains that as Farmington’s population ages, less families in the city have school-aged children, and as a result community interests are shifting away from schools. At the same time, school enrollment is declining in Farmington as fewer students enter the school system. He says that this is a difficult issue to manage because the process of enrollment decline doesn’t happen suddenly or in easily manageable chunks.
Will Harrison close?: Across the Farmington Public Schools district, there are 120 classrooms that are over-capacitated, therefore Heitsch and other school officials have to make tough decisions about teacher cuts. After working with officials, who analyzed possible solutions for shrinking incoming class sizes, they were able to determine that consolidating three high schools to just two schools or even one high school could help resolve the issue. If this were to happen, Harrison may be the school that closes. Families are concerned about the potential loss.
Diversity: Stephen shares that when he was growing up in the 1970s and 1980s, Farmington’s population was growing but its economic and ethnic diversity was lacking. Heitsch says that now Farmington is very diverse stating that 27% of students receive free and reduced lunch and that the district’s African American and Asian American populations are growing. He also adds that schools are responding to this change and that school staff are receiving cultural competency and implicit bias training.
Changes in the fall: When students return on September 8th, they will notice changes, but school shouldn’t feel that different. There will be more unfamiliar faces than familiar faces due to staff cuts and retirements. Common Core will also change the curriculum because students will begin to learn certain skills earlier than they did before.
To hear the entire conversation, please click the audio link above.