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Back to School 2020
Back to School

News & Events

Partner in Education

Superintendent's Message

When I began writing this letter, two words that are a well known part of U.S. Marine training kept popping into my head: “Adapt and Overcome.” In my brief time with TCAPS, I have seen incredible work being done over countless hours on behalf of your children. TCAPS truly lives up to its reputation of excellence across the state and staff is working around the clock to prepare to welcome you, our students and families, to the 2020-21 academic year. I am so proud to be part of this talented, hard working team, and I am proud to have joined such a welcoming community that values education and cares about its schools.

Here is how I see the idea of adapting and overcoming relating to our safe return to school:

A - Acceptance - This is the hand we were dealt, so we must rise up, problem-solve, and prepare to deliver.
D - Delivery - Our 100% highly qualified teaching staff are ready to deliver education to our students.
A - Affirmation - We know this will be a fluid and constantly changing time and we will constantly review what we are doing and make any necessary adjustments along the way.
P - Patience - Throughout this challenging time, we must each extend kindness and empathy to one another and exercise patience. The bottom line is our staff wants what is best for your student and nothing less.
T - Together - Thank you for remaining with us. Together, we can do this.

As we previously announced, TCAPS will begin the academic year on Tuesday, September 8, 2020, with remote instruction. In a very short amount of time, this incredibly dedicated and hard working staff has definitely ADAPTed. They have come up with different options for learning designed to meet the needs of your family - all of which will offer personal attention to your student; whether face-to-face, UpNorth Virtual Live, or UpNorth Virtual On Demand.

Most importantly, our staff and community clearly have a can-do attitude to OVERCOME the challenges. Together, we will get the job of teaching our children done with the compassion and attention they deserve. I encourage you to visit the website for additional information and updates. I also encourage you to stay tuned to messages and information coming from your child’s school.

As we head into the Labor Day weekend, I want to thank you for trusting in TCAPS to not only provide your students with the high-quality education they deserve, but to also do so in an unprecedented time of change. To the many members of our staff who have worked so hard over these past months to provide these opportunities, thank you. Our students’ health and well-being will always be at the forefront of our decision-making.

No matter which educational option your family chose this year, we are committed to making this a positive and successful year of learning for your child. While this year will inevitably bring with it some changes to our normal routines and challenges we will have to face, we know that with our parents, our families, and our community as our partners, we can use this year to learn, grow, and succeed together.

As an additional resource, please find 2020-2021 Option 1 Safe Start At-A-Glance information: Elementary School Students | High School & Middle School Students

Wishing you a safe and enjoyable holiday weekend.


Dr. John VanWagoner
Superintendent, Traverse City Area Public Schools

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Light the Path
TCAPS News & Events

"We understand the impact our students’ social and emotional health has on their learning and overall wellbeing,"

“Light the Path to a Happy Kid” Free Virtual Learning Opportunity for Parents--Keynote Sept. 15th

TCAPS is pleased to announce the “Light the Path to a Happy Kid” event beginning on September 15th, a free TCAPS-sponsored virtual learning opportunity for parents looking to support their child’s social and emotional health and wellbeing. The event will happen over five evenings this fall and will be livestreamed for families to watch from the convenience of their home.

Light the Path to a Happy Kid

“We understand the impact our students’ social and emotional health has on their learning and overall wellbeing,” said Dr. John VanWagoner, Superintendent of Traverse City Area Public Schools. “From providing ongoing virtual counseling services for students, to offering support for parents like the “Light the Path to a Happy Kid” event, to ensuring teachers have access to the latest information on how to best support the emotional health of our community’s children, TCAPS is working to ensure resources are available to keep all aspects of our students' health at the forefront of our minds.”

The virtual learning opportunity kicks off with a keynote from Jessica Minahan, a nationally recognized behavior analyst speaking about child anxiety, on September 15, 2020, from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. The “Light the Path to a Happy Kid” event continues each Tuesday evening from September 22nd to October 13th from 7:00 p.m. to 7:45 p.m. Sessions allow parents to learn from local and national experts and will cover topics including child anxiety, social media pressures, cyberbullying, mindfulness, and more.

“We are so grateful that as a district we were able to secure a grant to allow us to offer training for our teachers, which occurred last spring, and now have the ability to offer our parents information and practical advice on supporting the social and emotional wellbeing of their children through a series of virtual learning events,” said Kate Burwinkel, Long Lake Elementary School Principal. “We began this effort before COVID-19 hit, but since that time, this type of support for students and families has only shown itself to be ever more important as we deal with the additional uncertainty, feelings of isolation, and change in routines caused by the pandemic.”

All parents who attend will be eligible to win a $350 Meijer gift card, a one night family stay at Great Wolf Lodge, and more. Attendees are asked to sign up in advance by RSVPing to the event. Families who RSVP will receive a link to the virtual workshop sessions. Families can choose which sessions interest them each week and click to the link to attend the live virtual presentation.

The event is free to attend and open to all area families. Learn more and RSVP to the “Light the Path to a Happy Kid” event.

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Three TCAPS Staff Members Among 2020 Outstanding Educators of the Traverse Bay Region

Outstanding Educators

The Traverse Bay Area Intermediate School District, Traverse Connect, and TBA Credit Union proudly announced the 2020 Outstanding Educator Award recipients on Thursday, September 3rd, which included three TCAPS staff members. This year’s district awardees are:

James Brumfield – Traverse City Central High School Head of Security
Mary Jane Collins – Willow Hill Elementary School 4th Grade Teacher
Alison Wright – Westwoods Elementary School 3rd Grade Teacher (Retired June 2020)

Established in 1984 by the Traverse City Chamber of Commerce, this regional Outstanding Educator Award program honors ten individuals who exhibit unique characteristics that represent the quintessential outstanding educator through leadership, excellence in school setting, evidence of student success, community engagement, and professional learning. Each year, nominations are submitted by public, private and parochial school administrators, colleagues, students, parents and community members throughout the five-county Traverse Bay region.

Extended Day Registration Open

Online registration for TCAPS’ Extended Day program is open. To attend the program the first week of in-person instruction (September 21), families will need to register and be approved before September 11th. The initial registration period will be for September 21st through October 30th. The first change period will occur between October 17th and October 21st with changes going into effect November 2nd if approved. Visit for registration information, health and safety protocols, and program information.

Enrollment Open for UpNorth Virtual On Demand until September 28th

Enrollment will be open for UpNorth Virtual until September 28, 2020. The program offers a full-time online learning experience for students in grades K-12. UpNorth Virtual On Demand extends the district’s full-time online offerings to K-5, making fully virtual classes available to K-12 students, and offers an engaging curriculum that is aligned with state standards. The program is open to all students in the five-county region.

The district will use Lincoln Learning for K-5 virtual learning courses and Edgenuity for 6-12 virtual learning courses. In addition to receiving comprehensive curriculum and support, families choosing to enroll in the UpNorth Virtual On Demand program will be enrolled in a local school and will have the opportunity to participate in school activities and events, and to utilize school resources, like counseling services, while taking courses completely online. Local learning labs will also be available for students where they can study from school libraries, or participate in virtually, and receive direct support from a local teacher or mentor.

To enroll or learn more about the program, visit:

TCAPS Receives 9th Consecutive 100% Passing Rating on Annual Bus Safety Inspection

TCAPS has received its 9th consecutive 100% passing rating on its school bus safety inspection from the Michigan State Police (MSP).

“Even though last school year ended differently than it began, necessary maintenance continued on our buses,” said Tyson Burch, director of facilities and transportation for Traverse City Area Public Schools. “Whether we are actively transporting students, delivering meals to families during the state-mandated school closures, or the buses are parked in the transportation lot, our dedicated mechanics and transportation staff work tirelessly to ensure our buses are safe, in excellent working order, and ready to go when needed.”

Bus service is provided to approximately 70% of TCAPS students and local private and parochial school students. Routes include more than 3,000 bus stops in a 300-square-mile area and drivers travel more than 7,000 miles per day. The annual MSP inspection ensures that the TCAPS bus fleet is ready to safely transport students to and from school and events. Learn more about the Michigan School Bus Inspection Report.

Live from the Opera House: It’s Storytime! Extended through September

Local collaboration supports literacy and STEM learning virtually

TCAPS, the City Opera House, and Newton’s Road are pleased to announce that episodes of Live from the Opera: It’s Storytime! will continue through the month of September, courtesy of series underwriter, Belle Tire.

Live from the Opera House: It's Storytime

“Investing in the communities and people we serve is a big part of who we are at Belle Tire,” said Don Barnes III, President of Belle Tire. “We love the idea of providing students with additional learning opportunities that they can take advantage of at home, and the collaboration between the local schools, the City Opera House and Newton’s Road made this a true community partnership that we knew we wanted to support.”

Launched in August to provide virtual learning enrichment opportunities for elementary students during the summer, with the generous support of Belle Tire and the continued enthusiasm for the program from the collaborating partners, the series has been extended for five weeks, through the month of September.

“The City Opera House understands that in this time of great division and strife it’s up to the community to rise up and support our area's kids and their extended families by donating our collective time and talents to a greater cause, the education of our area’s children,” said Diana Baribeau, Executive Director, City Opera House.

The program is made available to all area youth and families, along with other learning resources on New episodes will be posted to the website and on social media at 9:00 a.m. each Wednesday in September. In addition, the book read each week will be featured at the Traverse Area District Library Main Branch and the activity guide will be displayed for library patrons to use as a resource.

Live from the Opera House: It’s Storytime! Episodes:

September 2: Aliens Are Coming
Featuring: Ron Jolly, Radio Show Host
Activity: Thunderstorm and Bouncing Ball

August 26: Twenty-One Elephants & Still Standing
Featuring: Casey Cowell, Principal at Boomerang Catapult and Co-Founder of U.S. Robotics
Activity: Build a Bridge

August 19: Papa’s Mechanical Fish
Featuring: Marty Lagina, Founder and CEO, Heritage Sustainable Energy and Treasurer Hunter on the History Channel’s “The Curse of Oak Island”
Activity: Water Bottle Submarines

August 12: Hedy Lamarr’s Double Life: Hollywood Legend & Brilliant Inventor
Featuring: Kimmee Wenkel, Actress and Co-Founder of Cognition, a museum and science center
Activity: Tin Can Walkie Talkie and See Sound

August 5: Ada’s Violin
Featuring: Miriam Pico, Professional Musician
Activity: Make Your Own Musical Instrument

Special Episode: If I Built A Car
Featuring: McKeel Hagerty, CEO, Hagerty
Activity: Recycle Racers

July 22: One Plastic Bag
Featuring, Dr. John VanWagoner, TCAPS Superintendent
Activity: Plarn Bracelets and Plastic Bag Jellyfish

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TC Central Alumni, Dr. Andrea Kritcher, Published in August 2020 Edition of Nature

Dr. Andrea Kritcher has a groundbreaking research paper published in the August 5, 2020, issue of the journal Nature. Only eight percent of papers submitted annually are accepted by Nature. Kritcher's work at the National Ignition Facility which is part of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California (LLNL), involves experiments on the world's largest laser. The results are relevant to the conditions at the cores of giant planets,
the interiors of brown dwarfs (failed stars), the carbon envelopes of white dwarf stars and many applied science programs at LLNL.

Kritcher is the daughter of Chris and Pam Kritcher of Traverse City, and granddaughter of Bob and the late Noreen Stark, and the late Stan and Marge Kritcher of Petoskey. After graduating from Traverse City Central High School in 2001 and attending Northwestern Michigan College, she transferred to the University of Michigan where she graduated magna cum laude with a degree in nuclear engineering and radiological science. She completed her masters and Ph.D at the University of California at Berkeley in nuclear engineering and high energy density plasma physics.

Dr. Kritcher is currently the nuclear fusion lead campaign physicist and group leader at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in Livermore CA. Congratulations, Dr. Andrea Kritcher!

TCAPS Food & Nutrition Services Meal Distribution and Summer “Fun Fridays”

TCAPS is proud to have served 255,000+ meals since launching its meal distribution and delivery program in March in response to the state-mandated, in-person school closures due to COVID-19.

The effort by TCAPS’ Food & Nutrition Services staff has been a tremendous undertaking and the district is so proud to have the best staff working so hard to make sure no one goes hungry. “Our slogan is ‘Nourishing Young Minds,’” said Tom Freitas, director of the TCAPS Food and Nutrition Program. “Providing meals that fuel our students’ learning is our passion, so it was never a question of if, only how, we would continue to serve meals after schools were closed. Since that time, it has been humbling to see the gratitude for our kitchen staff and it has shown even more deeply the impact that our food service team has on the lives of the families we serve. We are so proud to work for TCAPS and for this community.”

In addition to serving meals to families, TCAPS was able to offer “Fun Fridays” throughout the summer. In partnership with the Downtown Development Authority, TCAPS was able to distribute 6,500+ Fun Friday items to families. Items such as art supplies, homemade soap, gift cards, and more. In addition, thousands of books were distributed from the meal sites by our partners Traverse Area District Library, Born to Read, and PoWer! Book Bags.

Learn more about TCAPS Food and Nutrition Services:




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“The Intense Student Support Network provides tools for staff to effectively nurture and support students whose non-academic needs may create obstacles to high achievement.”

TCAPS Intense Student Support Network (ISSN) Receives Alumni Gift

We are humbled and honored that TCAPS alumna Irene K. Morrison (Kadrovach) left a bequest to TCAPS in her will for $10,623. Mrs. Morrison was born September 2, 1925, in Traverse City. She graduated from Traverse City High School (now Traverse City Central High School) and from the University of Mankato with a Bachelor of Science degree. Her professions included teaching reading and music, and later in life she became an LPN. She enjoyed golfing, gardening, music and dancing. She played piano by ear and was a drum majorette in high school. Irene passed away on Saturday, August 17, 2019, in Worthington, MN.

Said her son Terry Morrison, “My mother LOVED Traverse City and her education from TCAPS. She was a generous woman and we think the ISSN is the best place for her to leave her legacy.” Thank you to the Morrison family for delivering this gift which will be used to help remove barriers to student learning.

Over 900 Backpacks Distributed through Backpack for Kids Program

A huge thank you to the Sunrise Rotary Club for the annual Backpacks for Kids event held on August 27th. Each year local Rotarians fundraise for, pack and provide hundreds of backpacks and school supplies to area families to ensure students have the tools they need for a successful start to the school year. We are so grateful for this ongoing community partnership and the support it provides to our families! Thank you, Rotarians, you truly make a difference!

Backpacks for Kids

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