WEST FARGO — To help expected overcrowding at Freedom Elementary School, the West Fargo School District plans to try a new program at Deer Creek Elementary to not only help the size of classes but perhaps set a precedent for future learning models in the district.

Freedom Elementary School is expected to surpass its student capacity by about 100 students this fall when the 2021-22 school year begins.

Instead of considering boundary changes, district staff unveiled plans last week for the "Freedom Innovation Academy" at Deer Creek.

The academy would be created first by shifting 100 volunteer students in grades two through five at Freedom Elementary School to a separate wing dedicated to those students at Deer Creek Elementary School. The wing would have four classrooms and would be held through spring 2023.

"Once we've identified students and staff for the Innovation Academy, more details will be developed and shared," Assistant Superintendent Rachael Agre said. "The students and staff will have the opportunity to help further design the future of personalized learning."

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The Innovation Academy at Deer Creek would be a little different from other learning models in that it will attempt to use the framework of North Dakota Choice Ready framework. Choice Ready is designed for seniors in high school, but staff said the district wants to begin Choice Ready learning as soon as possible.

That learning model involves personalized learning that includes community service, 21st century skills, extra activities and career choice programs, as well as capstone projects.

"The necessity to do something different has blossomed the creativity of the team," Director of Curriculum and Instruction Heather Sand said.

Quiver, an app that focuses on socio-emotional learning such as compassion and resiliency, allows students to be in a virtual house with other students so they can support one another, Sand said.

The focus of Quiver is relationships, self reflection and understanding each person matters.

The Innovation Academy will have "maker spaces" that will allow students a place to create and work. Classrooms at the academy will also have virtual reality equipment that is currently only available to secondary students.

"Over the next few years, our district focus is to expand upon this solid foundation as we personalize learning opportunities for students and staff," Agre said.

The Innovation Academy will be a voluntary program. Parents are asked to fill out an interest survey by May 7 that will be emailed to each family at Freedom and can be found online at the district's website.

"Not only is this program a solution to our continuous growth in the Freedom neighborhood, it provides us an avenue to expand on the work we have done in offering students a curriculum that prepares them for the world of today and the world of tomorrow," Agre said.

Transportation will be provided by the district for Freedom students who will need to be bused to Deer Creek. Buses will first drop Freedom students off at Freedom each morning and then drop off Innovation students at Deer Creek; the reverse would happen in the afternoons.

Freedom students would remain Freedom Flyers and would bused back to the school to continue sports and intermural programs at Freedom Elementary.

Agre said there may be times grade levels are blended. A classroom that is multi-age most of the time would depend on enrollment.