Two local school districts will be taking part in Apollo, the fourth phase of the Kansas Can School Redesign Project.

Forty-one schools representing 19 districts across Kansas will take part in Apollo, including local schools, Frontenac Junior High, Frank Layden Elementary and Northeast High School.

According to the Kansas Department of Education website, the Kansans Can School Redesign Project, “was announced in 2017 in support of Kansas’ vision for education” created in 2015 based on community and business feedback across the state.

From the conversations which took place during the community feedback meetings, “Kansans said that schools need to place an equal amount of focus on helping students develop nonacademic skills, such as social-emotional growth, as they do on developing academic skills,” KSDE says on its website. “This vision calls for a more student- focused system that provides support and resources for individual success.”

Frank Layden Elementary School, Frontenac Junior High School and Northeast  High School were approved for the Apollo phase of the project. During this phase conferences and community feedback will collect information on what the area schools need to do to improve nonacademic skills.

Part of the process is sending out surveys for the community, parents and students, Frontenac Junior High Principal Mike Martin said. The 2019-2020 school year is considered the “preparation year” and plans made during that year will be kicked into gear for fall 2020.

“It’s a way in which to gain more information and research and developing a plan with teaching staff and come up with an idea for the following year and beyond,” he said.

Although there may be changes in the future, several programs which the school already implements — such as the Frank Layden Elementary House system — will continue.
“A lot of things currently do that are very strong that are built into our culture here that we want to continue, those things stay the same,” Frank Layden Elementary School Principal Courtney McCartney said.

NEHS is planning to continue grow its teacher-led programs such as career-based seminars, which were previously grade-based, NEHS Principal Jason Clemensen said.

“We’re excited about the opportunity, we’re glad to have been chosen,” he said. “Our teachers are ready to move forward, they know it will be hard work and they know going to have to change the way we usually do things in our school, but they are making things better for students every day.”

The high school will also continue its student-led parent teaching in which “students have more of a vested stake in it,” Clemenson said. There has been an increase of parents coming to the conferences. Usually in the spring there are about 30 percent of students’ parents at the meetings, this spring, there was over 70 percent.

The school districts will be take part in webinars and programs at Greenbush Education Service Center, which will guide the districts through processes other districts have gone through.

The principals at each of the schools said they are excited for the school redesign opportunity.
“We want to put our kids in the best possible situation and the redesign gives us that opportunity,” Martin said. “It’s the first thing in probably 30 years that education really is  education and teacher driven.
“We’re really excited to be a part of that, something that will really make a difference in the lives of our kids.”

The Frontenac School District is inviting parents, students, community and business leaders to learn more about its project at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday at the school’s middle gym.
Northeast School District will announce its community meeting at a later date.
— Stephanie Potter is a staff writer at the Morning Sun. She can be emailed at spotter@morningsun.net or follow her on Twitter @PittStephP and Instagram @stephanie_morningsun.