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Centre staff visited redesigned school

Fourteen school sites in Kansas are being redesigned

Staff writer

Redesigning schools has been a topic of interest in Kansas in recent years. Fourteen school sites in Kansas are undergoing pilot projects in redesign this year.

Centre seventh through 12th grade principal Donald Raymer and four teachers — Sherri Hudson, Jon Meyer, Tana Riffel, and Kelly Steiner — recently took a trip to Eminence, Kentucky, to tour a kindergarten through 12th grade school that has redesigned its classroom education. They gave a report on the trip at Monday’s school board meeting.

Eminence school has grown from 300 students eight years ago to 900. Some come from an hour away.

“The growth is due to classroom instruction,” Raymer said. “They have been very successful in what they’ve done to help students while they are in school and afterward.”

LED lighting has been installed throughout the school and all clocks are digital. About 70 percent of students receive free and reduced meals, 22 percent are homeless. The bottom 10 percent were failing before the redesign.

From day one of kindergarten, students are given a purpose for being there. They are taught how the school functions and guided to pursue their own goals. After fifth grade, they give presentations to community members to show their readiness for middle school. They are guided to state their strengths and weaknesses. The same happens before they enter high school and before they graduate.

“Everything is tied into a purpose,” Raymer said. “Every student has taken ownership and goes ahead with passion.”

Traditional instruction takes up most of school time, but hands-on projects are incorporated through the year. Students see the activities as something they want to do.

Several days are set aside each year for planning, designing, and completing innovative projects that are selected by students or teachers and worked on together. They are called “passion projects.”

“Their motto was, find a problem, fix a problem,” Steiner said.

“This really flipped their school,” Raymer said. “Teachers were given the opportunity to teach something they are passionate about while teaching skills students can use later.”

Hudson said students were connected to their teachers, and teachers were allowed to earn microcredentials in specific skills, so they could teach the skills in their own classrooms.

The lunchroom was like a restaurant at noon but served as a learning space during the day. Students wanted to eat there.

The library was in a hallway, and glass walls were covered for privacy and made into display areas.

Many other redesign details were given but are too numerous to mention.

“We’re not that far off here at Centre,” Riffel said. “We just got some new ideas.”

“We came back with a lot of answers,” Raymer concluded.

He asked the board to support a trip by interested teachers to Eminence next summer for a training session July 18 and 19.

“This looks like a clear path to redesign,” board member Eric Carlson said.

“It’s going to engage every student,” Heather Steiner said.

The board approved the trip.

Last modified Dec. 13, 2018

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