Stockton USD 271 has been selected as one of seven school districts in a year-long project to redesign Kansas schools for the future.

The seven districts selected for the Kansas Can School Redesign project were announced in Tuesday morning’s Kansas State Board of Education meeting in Topeka.

The districts will design one elementary and one secondary school around the vision, outcomes and definition of a successful high school graduate, as determined by a study by the Kansas State Department of Education.

Kansas Education Commissioner Randy Watson referred to the project as Kansas’ “moonshot,” echoing the theme of the project, Mercury 7. Each of the districts was given a codename from America’s first astronauts, the Mercury 7.

Stockton was named for Deke Slayton, who served as NASA’s director of flight crew operations and flew in space in 1975 at age 51.

“We’re getting ready to do something we don’t know of any other state having done,” Watson said.

“We’re going to deconstruct the traditional school system and build what Kansans believe best meets the needs of today’s students — choice. And, we’re doing all of this with existing resources, no new buildings and the same educators,” Watson said.

Speaking at the Tuesday morning meeting, Shelly Swayne, USD 271 superintendent and Stockton High School principal, continued with that theme, saying she has taught about the race to the moon as a history teacher.

“There were two very important questions asked in how to get to the moon: What if and why not,” she said. “What I can tell you about Stockton and USD 271 is we ask those questions constantly.”

She cited the school district working with the Stockton Chamber of Commerce and Rooks County Economic Development, and a summer reading initiative with the Stockton Public Library to give away books to children from birth to age 6.

“To build that kindergarten readiness, that is the next step and foundation of success beyond that,” she said.

“What I tell you about USD 271 is we’re on board. Our community is our school, and our school is our community,” she said.

The redesign will focus on five areas set by the state board of education: social-emotional growth, kindergarten readiness, individual plan of study, high school graduation rates and postsecondary completion/attendance.

The first phase of the redesign, “building the launch pad,” through November, will include developing a shared vision, organizing a redesign team and setting goals and action steps.

In the second phase, December through February, teams will “design the rocket” — create a comprehensive design plan and test strategies.

The third phase, “building the rocket,” will be March through May. Financial resources will be dedicated, materials and resources placed, human resources dedicated, a professional development plan put in place and the design plan will be completed.

The fourth phase, “show and launch,” will take place June through August next year.

The seven schools will implement the redesign plans for the 2018-19 school year and serve as demonstration sites for other districts to learn from, according to KSDE.

In order to be considered for the redesign project, districts had to agree to redesign one elementary and one secondary school, and gain approval from its school board and 80 percent of faculty, and get support from the Kansas National Education Association or other professional organization.

The other schools chosen for the Mercury 7 are Coffeyville USD 445, Liberal USD 480, McPherson USD 418, Olathe USD 233, Twin Valley USD 240 and Wellington USD 353.

Twenty-nine districts applied to the redesign project. The remaining 22 schools — which include Dighton USD 482 — will be eligible for the “Gemini” phase of the project.

The remaining districts that applied are Ashland USD 220, Basehor-Linwood USD 458, Beloit USD 273, Burrton USD 369, Canton-Galva USD 419, Chaparral USD 361, Durham-Hillsboro-Lehigh USD 410, Flint Hills USD 492, Fowler USD 225, Geary County USD 475, Kingman USD 331, Leavenworth USD 453, Newton USD 373, North Lyon County USD 251, North Ottawa County USD 239, Ottawa USD 290, Pratt-Skyline USD 438, Renwick USD 267, Rolla USD 217, Santa Fe Trail USD 434 and Spring Hill USD 230.