Pandemic hasn’t stopped Kansas school redesign efforts

The COVID-19 pandemic shut down school buildings but hasn’t stopped state efforts to re-imagine public education in Kansas.

The Kansas State Department of Education on Tuesday announced more districts and schools joining the Kansans Can School Redesign Project.

The latest phase is called Apollo II in keeping with the theme of U.S. space exploration efforts. The first redesign groups were dubbed Mercury 7, Gemini I, Gemini II, Apollo I and Apollo II.

Under the redesign project, schools are realigned to focus on five outcomes for student success that were established by the State Board of Education in 2015. Those outcomes are social-emotional growth, kindergarten readiness, individual plans of study, high school graduation and post-secondary success.

“We are inspired by the courage all these school districts are showing,” said Jay Scott, KSDE Secondary School Redesign Specialist.

He said when schools buildings were closed in March because of COVID-19 and pivoted to online instruction, some said this may not be a good time to attempt redesign. But some said since they were undergoing drastic short term changes because of the pandemic, they might as well work on permanent transformation.

Tammy Mitchell, KSDE Elementary School Redesign Specialist, said the process of helping districts with their redesign efforts has changed dramatically because of restrictions on face-to-face meetings.

Over the past several years, 182 schools in 73 districts have embarked on the Kansans Ca School Redesign Project.

The schools announced Tuesday as part of the Apollo II phase include: Central Heights USD 288 High School; Clay County USD 379 Lincoln Elementary; Emporia USD 253 Middle School, Village Elementary and Walnut Elementary; Eureka USD 389 Marshall Elementary; Flint Hills USD 492 Primary, Intermediate, Middle and High School; Hays USD 489 Lincoln Elementary; Hutchinson USD Lincoln Elementary; Marais des Cygnes USD 456 Elementary, Middle and High School; Wamego USD 320 High School and Winfield USD 465 High School.

These schools will go through a yearlong redesign process and launch those changes in the 2021-22 school year. Seven of the 10 districts participating in Apollo II are new to redesign, while Emporia, Hutchinson and Winfield already have other redesigned schools from earlier phases.

Meanwhile, the State Board of Education approved the redesign plans of several schools that will launch changes this school year. These include Clay County USD 379 Middle School; Haven USD 312 Middle School; Lyons USD 405 High School; Stafford USD 349 Stafford Elementary; Goodland USD 352 North Elementary and Kaw Valley USD 321 Rossville Grade School.

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