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New Farmington High: Ready and waiting

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Photographs by Lynn Kutter

Belyn Rodgers, who teaches oral communications and AP Language and Composition, moves in boxes of books to her new classroom at Farmington High School.

FARMINGTON -- A groundbreaking ceremony for a new $13 million Farmington High School was held April 8, 2016, and now, less than 18 months later, the school is ready to hold an open house for the community, students and parents to come in and see the new building.

Several Farmington High School teachers moved into their new classrooms last week. Jennifer Fuson teaches AP Literature and Composition, pre-AP 11th g...

The open house will be held from 3 to 6 p.m. Monday. Students will arrive for the first day of class Wednesday.

Farmington High School costs

Construction: $12.9 million

Kitchen equipment: $459,000

Food Court furnishings: $169,862

School furniture: $199,386

Source: Staff report

Jeff Oxford, president of Farmington School Board, graduated from Farmington High School in 1986 with a graduating class of 54 seniors.

With the growth in Northwest Arkansas and the growth in the Farmington School District, it was obvious long ago, Oxford said, that Farmington would need a new high school.

The class of 2017 graduated 170 students.

Oxford's one regret, he said, is that none of his children will be able to attend the new school. His youngest child graduated in May.

But he's looking forward to the opportunities today's students will have.

A Show Place

"I think that school is a showplace," Oxford said. "I'm excited for the opportunities kids are going to have in that high school. I think the kids of the community will reap rewards from that school for years to come."

Oxford said the school does not appear as a large structure on the outside. Looks are deceiving, he said, because the building is spacious on the inside with wide hallways, large classrooms and fully equipped science labs, a modern media center, open agriculture department and a commons area. Other rooms house programs for television/media production, robotics and engineering and healthcare professions.

The new school has about 99,000 square feet.

As he walks through the school, Oxford said he remembers what the home economics classroom looked like in the 1980s.

"I think of Mr. Hummel's old agri shop. Now we have individual welding stations. We have a true chemistry room that is built just for that. Everyone in Farmington should be proud," he said.

Clayton Williams, assistant high school principal and also a Farmington High School graduate, is ready to get started.

He recently gave a tour of the building to a group of retired Farmington teachers and they were impressed, he said.

The one recurring comment by the retired teachers, he said, was that the school will be "a blessing to the community and such an opportunity for our students."

People who have lived in the community see a new high school as one of those landmark events, Williams said, "a watershed event."

Williams' hope is students will also realize the importance of a new high school and will take ownership. His one concern is that future students moving up to the new school may take the new facility for granted.

"We want to emphasize that the facilities are great, but the magical thing is what happens when students and teachers all put this to good use," Williams said. "We want them to have educational opportunities, experiences to learn and hopefully have a little bit of fun."

Areas Of 'Pop'

Superintendent Bryan Law wanted areas of the school to "pop" or stand out to students, teachers and visitors.

These areas will be obvious as people walk into the new building. Visitors will come into a wide, brick hallway that opens up into an area school officials are describing as the main hub.

From the hub, students can go into the media center, commons area, access the grand staircase to the second floor or go to classes on two attached wings.

The media center is set up to accommodate students using laptop computers in a casual, modern setting. The commons area, which is about 1 1/2 times larger than the lunch room in the old high school, is decorated with a Farmington Cardinals theme, that includes artwork on the tabletops.

Principal Jon Purifoy describes the building as an "unbelievable" place to have school.

"It's an inviting atmosphere, an exciting atmosphere because of all the new stuff," Purifoy said. "All this is great, I understand that, but it also improves test scores. If you're happy and in a place you feel safe, you have great confidence. It's a matter of pride."

Career Academy Model

While the school is known by its common name Farmington High School, the Arkansas Department of Education now refers to it as Farmington Career Academies. The new school will serve 10th through 12th grade, about 550 students. Each grade will have its own wing with a fourth wing set aside for science classes and labs.

Williams said the school will kick off its career academies model this year and students will be assigned to a specific academy based on their interests.

The goal is to still go slow in implementing the career academy model as students and staff adjust to the new building, Williams added.

Farmington will have three academies:

Prime: Agriculture, pre-engineering, STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) related careers, computer science, EAST.

Shield: Consumer science, education, childcare, service industry, medical.

Ace: Business, fine arts, accounting, marketing, broadcasting..

One feature of the Career Academy model will be community service, Williams said. Each academy will complete a community service project this year.

Plans For Old High School

As the new school opens, the old building will continue to be used in a variety of ways.

Farmington's ninth-graders will remain at the old school with the Freshman Academy. The academy will move into the newest section of the old high school building.

Bob Echols is Freshman Academy principal and Lisa Williams is office manager. The front offices in the building also will house administrative staff for the school's nutrition department.

Williams said some students and teachers will have to travel back and forth between the Freshman Academy and new high school for some classes.

The high school's Alternative Learning Education center will be housed in the former maintenance building, located on the old high school campus.

Other parts of the old high school will be used by Northwest Technical Institute and Northwest Arkansas Community College.

Northwest Technical Institute will offer four courses in what used to be the senior hall at the old high school. These courses will be available for students in western Washington County. Courses being offered are law enforcement, medical professions, computer engineering and dental assistant.

The community college will continue to serve as a satellite location and offer core classes in the J building at the old high school.

Williams said future projects at the old high school will include demolishing the south wing or oldest section of the building and tearing down the old gym. This demolition is part of an agreement between the school district and the Department of Education to receive state monies for the new high school building.

The school is hoping to receive a grant to build a storm shelter to replace the old gym.

Down the road, one of the district's goals is to possibly turn the old high school into a campus for eighth- and ninth-graders to relieve some of the pressure at the middle school.

NW News on 08/12/2017

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