Lincoln Elementary School and Ottawa High School will be two of 42 schools participating in the Kansas State Department of Education’s “Gemini Project.”

“Everything that is being pushed with this is really about ensuring that whether our students are going to post-secondary schools or straight into the workforce, that they can be successful in either endeavor,” Ryan Cobbs, Ottawa assistant superintendent, said.

The project is a portion of KSDE’s Kansans Can School Redesign Project. Originally, Ottawa was one of 29 districts that applied to be a part of the Apollo Project. Seven other schools were chosen, but the remaining applicants, including Ottawa, had the option to be a part of the Gemini Project.

“We feel that being in the Gemini Project versus the Apollo Project is actually going to be a benefit to our district,” Cobbs said. “...Because we were selected to be a member of the Gemini Project, we can do our training digitally, which then means that we can involve everybody. Instead of just looking at what we might redesign in one school, we can have district-wide conversations about what that might mean at all three elementary schools, the middle school and high school.”

The general goals of the Gemini and Apollo projects are the same, he said.

“I think that what the state is looking for is are there different ways that we can best educate our kids?” Cobbs said. “The goal for us is to recognize what Ottawa and USD 290 needs in order for our kids to be as successful as they could possibly be.”

The “redesign” will focus on the “global picture of how schools work,” Cobbs said. That might mean a curriculum change or different schedules, calendars and opportunities for kids to attend school in a variety of ways.

“The goal for us is to take a look at each individual kid and to find a program in which they can be successful to their goals, and not just be bound by, ‘This is what we want every kid should do,’” Cobbs said. “But, really, taking a look at, ‘Here is the path that this kid wants to go down.’ How do we best meet those needs as we go forward without providing constraints saying, ‘Once you go down this path, you can’t get out any other way’? Having the flexibility to move in and out of that path, depending on what the child wants to do.”

At the end of July, Cobbs said administrators met and discussed questions such as: What are the district’s strengths? What are areas that can be improved? What are priorities for us and expectations? What tools or strategies does the district already have in place that are working?

“We really wanted our teachers to think outside of the box, away from just what we’ve always been expected to do over the course of the last 15 years,” Cobbs said. “We know that we have barriers, but if those barriers weren’t there, what would we be capable of accomplishing and what things would we need to be able to do so?”

The districts and their respective schools who will be a part of the Gemini Project are as follows:

Ashland USD 220, Ashland Elementary and Ashland Junior-Senior High Basehor-Linwood USD 458, Basehor Elementary and Basehor-Linwood High Beloit USD 273, Beloit Elementary and Beloit Junior-Senior High Burrton USD 369, Burrton Elementary and Burrton Middle School/High Canton-Galva USD 419, Canton-Galva Elementary and Canton-Galva Junior-Senior High Chaparral USD 361, Harper Elementary and Chaparral Junior-Senior High Dighton USD 482, Dighton Elementary and Dighton Junior-Senior High Durham-Hillsboro-Lehigh USD 410, Hillsboro Elementary and Hillsboro Middle Fowler USD 225, Fowler Elementary and Fowler Junior-Senior High Geary County USD 475, Westwood Elementary and Junction City High Kingman USD 331, Kingman Elementary and Kingman Middle Leavenworth USD 453, David Brewer Elementary and Leavenworth High Newton USD 373, Slate Creek Elementary/Santa Fe 5-6 Center and Chisolm Middle North Lyon County USD 251, Americus Elementary and/or Reading Elementary and Northern Heights High North Ottawa County USD 239, Minneapolis Grade School and Minneapolis Junior-Senior High Ottawa USD 290, Lincoln Elementary and Ottawa High Renwick, USD 267, Colwich Elementary and Garden Plain High Rolla USD 217, Rolla Elementary and Rolla Junior-Senior High Santa Fe Trail USD 434, Overbrook Attendance Center (kindergarten through third grade) and Santa Fe Trail High Skyline USD 438, Skyline Elementary and Skyline High Spring Hill USD 230, Prairie Creek Elementary and Spring Hill High

For more information about the Gemini Project, visit goo.gl/tCz5n7