The Farmington Public Schools face enormous challenges. Most of these challenges will not be met by better pools, athletic fields or updated classroom furniture. The Farmington Board of Education must acknowledge the changes that have occurred in the community and use their energies for improvements that meet the needs of the area. These changes include the growth of the senior population, the backgrounds of students entering the Farmington Public Schools and an increased need for vocational training in high schools.
A publication from the Area Agency on Aging 1B states that there are now more seniors (age 60+) than school aged children in the Farmington-Farmington Hills area. By the year 2025 there will be twice as many seniors as school aged children. The average income of households with a householder over 65 is $48,781 in Farmington and $53,479 in Farmington Hills. Currently a significant amount of property taxes paid by these seniors goes to the schools. Seniors are limited by what they can afford.
According to a speaker from the Commission on Children, Youth and Families, the majority of students in the FPS now live in apartments rather than single family homes. These students have attended schools outside the FPS boundaries, and they come into the system with differing educational backgrounds. The traditional method of putting all 9 year olds in grade 4 is not helpful for these students. These students are not special needs students; they are part of the general school population that have not benefitted from FPS. Many need remedial classes which require a great deal of hard work: repetition, drill and frequent evaluations. These students need a no frills school day. Too often valuable time is taken from the core curriculum to promote political and social issues such as diversity, conflict resolution and coping skills.
For many years the Farmington Public Schools have offered primarily a college prep curriculum in its high schools.
This was an appropriate response to the needs expressed by colleges, universities and corporations. The majority of FPS graduates continue their education after high school. However, the speaker from the Commission on Children, Youth and Family stated that many juniors and seniors in the FPS do not have sufficient writing skills to complete applications for colleges and grants. This is a change from the past. The school board should consider adding more classes for students who are not college bound. If students know they can be trained for a job through their high school classes, they may be motivated to complete four years.
Everyone benefits when the community schools offer a strong basic curriculum that includes reading and writing skills, math, social studies and science instruction, as well as Art, Gym, Music and Computer Literacy. If students master these basics, they have a chance to succeed in school and life. The school board must consider the changes that are occurring in the Farmington-Farmington Hills area. Money is part of the equation. Interested citizens and a creative, dedicated teaching staff are also valuable in meeting the challenges of a changing community.
Mary Judge Buchan