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November 2020
Finding a Helping Hand

News & Events

Partner in Education

Superintendent's Message
“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’” - Fred Rogers

TCAPS Families and Staff,

We are experiencing an incredibly challenging time right now and although Fred Rogers’ famous story (above) was directed to young learners, I think we can all take something away from his message. No matter our circumstances, we all have the ability to look for “helpers'' when we need them and to be “helpers” for others every day. Whether it's our neighbors, friends, or simply appreciating the little things in life, like the wag of a dog’s tail or an evening sunset, if our eyes are open, we will see helping hands reaching out all around us and we will see endless opportunities to help lift up others.

For me personally, it’s been a great comfort to know that within our school district, we have so many helpers who are always ready to support our students and families. Our teaching staff is delivering high quality instruction and finding new ways to connect with students everyday. Our technology department is ready to help troubleshoot issues and to help students stay connected to learning from home. Our social work team is supporting the social and emotional needs of students and our student support network is helping to address many non-academic barriers to learning. Finally, our food service team continues to provide healthy, daily meals for students, which can currently be picked-up at each school or received via the transportation department’s home delivery service. These are just a few of the incredible helpers on our team who are ready right now to support our students and families.

I have also been incredibly grateful for the helpers we have in the community. As you read through this newsletter, you’ll see the hard work and efforts of our community partners to raise money for local schools, students sharing joy through song, PTO virtual events, virtual parades, fall art projects, inspirational messages and kindness campaigns. It is really quite impressive that even in the face of great challenges, we continue to be surrounded by so many positive people, events, and activities.

Over the Thanksgiving holiday, I challenge you to look for ways to safely connect with each other and your community. Take a bag and the proper tools with you on your daily walk and pick up trash in your neighborhood. Choose five people to call to just say hello. The more creative, the better. Check out this webpage from PBS Kids, which hosted Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood for over 30 years, for resources including videos and activities to help families in challenging times.

It is my hope that we all look for the helpers and become helpers in our community. Wishing you a safe and happy Thanksgiving.


John R. VanWagoner II, PhD
Superintendent, Traverse City Area Public Schools

Classroom Helpers
Cherry Knoll teacher Tracey Westerman had her students create their mini-self so as she teaches from her classroom, she can look out at her students. This helped to reduce some of the anxiety students may have been feeling about transitioning to remote learning.

Teen Mindfulness Classes





Partner in Education

TCAPS Superintendent Office Hours – Held Monthly, Open to the Community

TCAPS Superintendent, Dr. John VanWagoner, will begin holding monthly virtual and in-person office hours, which are open to the community. The next Office Hours are scheduled for Tuesday, December 8, 2020.
  • Virtual Office Hours will be held the 2nd Tuesday of every month through the end of the school year at 8:30 a.m. Click here to access the Google Meet or call +1 484-403-0627 and enter PIN 810 142 163# to access via phone. The same Google Meet link and phone number will be used for all virtual office hours.
  • In-person Office Hours will be held the 2nd Tuesday of every month through the end of the school year at 5:00 p.m. in the McGuire Room at the Traverse Area District Library (610 Woodmere Avenue).

TCAPS Social Work Staff Ready to Serve

TCAPS social workers are available to work with parents, students and families with resources for anxiety and stress around the continuous transitions and adaptations required of us during these times; as well as provide some informal/unofficial therapeutic support. If you are in need of support, we encourage you to reach directly out to your building school social worker, school counselor, or the district’s social worker. Families who may be experiencing a housing transition are also encouraged to reach out for assistance. Click here for contact information for TCAPS’ social work staff.

Families who weren’t able to participate in the “Light the Path to a Happy Kid” series held earlier this year are invited to view the recorded sessions here. There is great content for families to view and share at home.

Second Semester Learning Option Change Request - Enrollment Form - Due Nov. 30th

The enrollment period is now open for families wishing to switch your student’s current learning platform to face-to-face, UpNorth Virtual Live or On Demand. Please note, this is not a survey. By submitting the enrollment change form, you are indicating your intent to enroll your child in a different learning option next semester. The school will reach out to you directly with more information, if you submit an enrollment form. Families who do not wish to change learning options do not need to take any action. Students will remain enrolled in their current program for the second semester unless an updated enrollment request form is received. The deadline to submit learning option change requests is November 30th. 

How to Access Internet and TCAPS Technology Services

Students or families experiencing technical issues with their district-issued Chromebook, may request assistance by contacting or 231.933.3328.

For families who may have limited internet access, TCAPS has a limited number of Verizon Orbic Speed Hotspots or Sprint CoolPad Surf Hotspots that can be checked out during remote learning. The hotspots are only as good as the cell coverage provided in a given area. Click here to check coverage in your area and/or request a hotspot. Additional internet access resources available include:

TCAPS to Continue to Call Snow Days This Year - New Text Alert Option Available for Inclement Weather School Closures

With the cold weather upon us, it's a good time to remind TCAPS families and community members about school closings. While remote learning provides new opportunities to continue education from home, given that some students and teachers in our community must travel to access reliable internet service, for the 2020-2021 school year, TCAPS will continue to call snow days. In the event of an inclement weather day, staff in cooperation with the GT Road commission, work to determine if roads are safe enough for transportation and travel to schools.

Once a decision is made, it is first communicated via TCAPS' Transportation Hotline (231.933.1955). From there, a variety of steps are taken which include updating the TCAPS website (, TCAPS Facebook and Twitter accounts, and notifying all media outlets. Media outlets report this news within minutes of TCAPS’ notification. School closings are announced as early in the morning as possible, but can occur as late as 6:00 a.m. In addition, on the day of a school closing or when an important message needs to be shared, an Alert screen will appear every time the district and/or all school home web pages are opened. (This is an embedded feature of the website and is not affected by pop up blockers.)

Also new this year is text messaging alerts. Opting in to this option will allow the district and schools to share important and timely information with staff and families via text messaging, including snow day alerts. On November 6, 2020, the district sent an initial text message inviting all families to opt in to receive texts from both the district and their child’s school. All text messages will come from the same number (87569). If you did not receive the opt-in text message, you can always opt in at any time by sending the word YES to 87569 and make sure your phone number is on file with the school. Texting is limited to contact numbers tied to the district’s staff and student databases, therefore is not available to the general public. Families can also subscribe to the district’s School Closings & Alerts RSS feed at:

Lastly, it is important to remember that the final decision regarding the attendance of your student on an inclement weather day is a personal decision parents must make for their family. It should be noted that the safest form of pupil transportation to and from school is the school bus.

For additional information including how snow days are determined, please read our Snow Day FAQs.

TCAPS Music Department Selling Annual Discount Cards

Support TCAPS' fabulous music department by purchasing the Music Department Annual Discount Card for only $10. Now through Friday, November 20th, you can purchase a card from your favorite 6-12 grade music student, secondary music staff, or by contacting the department directly at 231.933.6984. Where does the money go? Proceeds cover music department expenses for transportation, festival fees, performance costs and enrichment experiences for our students.
  • $10 per card - only the purchaser is covered by the card
  • 86% of the purchase price stays in the music department
  • Card is the size of a credit card
  • Good for continual use for one year

TCAPS Music Card

Help Your School - Submit Your Education Benefit Form Today

Even though free, healthy, and nutritious breakfasts and lunches are available to all students ages 18 and under this school year, TCAPS families are still asked to submit an education benefit form. This information is important because it is used to determine the distribution of other educational funding that supports TCAPS students. The form can be completed in one of two ways:
  1. Complete the Free and Reduced Meal Application at: (click on the “START AN APPLICATION” button). Families can also call 231.933.1910 to have a copy of the application sent electronically or through the U.S. Postal Service.
  2. Families that don’t think they qualify for free and reduced meals or aren’t planning on using meal assistance are still asked to complete this brief Household Information Survey.
Free & Reduced Lunch

Submitting an education benefit form is critical in determining the amount of money that schools receive from a variety of State and Federal programs like Title I A, At-risk (31a), Title II A, E-Rate, etc., which have the potential to offer supports and services for our students including:
  • Instructional supports (staff, supplies & materials, etc.)
  • Non-instructional services (counseling, social work, health services, etc.)
  • Professional learning for staff
  • Parent and community engagement supplies and activities
  • Technology
Please complete and submit either the application or survey as soon as possible to ensure that additional funding for our schools is available to meet the needs of students. All information on the report submitted is confidential. Learn more at:

tcapsloop weekly podcast

Free Meal Distribution Sites Updated - Delivery Option Added

This Saturday, November 21, 2020, will be the last Saturday meal distribution held at West Middle School until K-12 school resumes face-to-face. TCAPS will offer a total of 7 days of meals (bulk breakfast and lunch) to all TCAPS students on Saturday, November 21st, from 9:00 a.m. until 11:00 a.m. Meal pick up will be available at West Middle School on the bus ramp off Franke Rd.

Saturday’s distribution will include meals for the following days:
  • Saturday, November 21st
  • Sunday, November 22nd
  • Wednesday, November 25th
  • Thursday, November 26th
  • Friday, November 27th
  • Saturday, November 28th
  • Sunday, November 29th

Parents and students who are not able to attend the Saturday, November 21st, meal distribution may contact the Food Service Department at 231-933-1910 to make other arrangements for pick up. Delivery is not available for the November 21st meal distribution.

Additionally, daily meals will be available for pick up at all TCAPS school buildings from 7:00 a.m. until 1:00 p.m. on the following days:
    Monday, November 23rd - one regular day of meals (breakfast and lunch)
  • Tuesday, November 24th - one regular day of meals (breakfast and lunch)
    Beginning Monday, November 30th, daily meals will be available for pick up at all school buildings from 7:00 a.m. until 1:00 p.m. each weekday. Families may pick up meals from any TCAPS building. Weekend meals will also be available with Friday distributions beginning Friday, December 4th.

    Families who have transportation or scheduling issues and are not able to pick up meals during the daily meal distribution timeframe may sign up for meal delivery by completing this Meal Delivery Request Form. Please contact if you have any questions or need to request a change/cancellation of meal delivery. 

Stressed Teens

Central High School Debate Team Competes at Groves Falcon Invitational Tournament

The Traverse City Central High School Debate Team competed virtually over the weekend at the Groves Falcon Invitational Tournament. In the policy debate tournament, novice team members Lilian Kerby and Amara VanWagoner finished with a 3-2 record and took home 5th place overall. VanWagoner also won 5th place and Kerby won 11th place in the individual speaker awards. Varsity policy team members Henry Huschke and Shane Taylor won a semi-finalist trophy and finished in 9th and 15th place, respectively, in individual speaking awards. Novice public forum debate members Amelia Shotwell, Lily Jenkins, and Luca Schwalm competed in their first tournament in this style of debate. Shotwell earned 7th place, Jenkins earned 18th, and Schwalm earned 20th place in individual speaking awards out of a total of 73 debaters. Varsity public forum team members Erin O’Donnell, Regan O’Connor, Ethan Schweitzer, and Luke Appleford also competed, finishing strongly in a field of 50 competitors. O’Connor placed 13th and O’Donnell placed 21st in individual speaking awards. The virtual team was led by captain and varsity team member Sara Fox and Central High School teacher and debate coach Kathryn Polus.

CHS Debate Team

CHS Debate Team

Live from the Opera House: It’s Storytime! Library of Episodes for Extended Learning At Home

Traverse City Area Public Schools, the City Opera House, and Newton’s Road were pleased to present Live from the Opera House: It’s Storytime! this summer and fall, courtesy of series underwriter, Belle Tire. Each episode, hosted by Ben Whiting, introduces viewers to a special guest who reads a book and then an activity leader who demonstrates a project that you can do at home. Enjoy all episodes and its partner activity to support literacy and STEM learning virtually anytime at

Live from the Opera House, It's Storytime!

VFW Post 2780 Shares Folding of the Flag Ceremony

As part of its mission to serve communities, the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 2780 shared the Folding of the Flag ceremony and the meaning of the 13 folds of the flag with Cherry Knoll Elementary School students and staff on November 4, 2020. In addition, a student activity sheet was shared. We thank you for extending your service and education to our school community.

Flag Ceremony

Giving Thanks to TCAPS Food Service Staff

Thank you to our amazing food service staff who have continued to work tirelessly to provide delicious, healthy meals for our students. Whether it's an in-school Thanksgiving meal or as part of the free meal distribution service, we are grateful for your dedication. Thank you!

Eastern Thnaksgiving

Traverse Heights Virtual Math Night - November 19

Traverse Heights Elementary School held its first Virtual Math Night on Thursday, November 19th. Each student was given a goodie bag full of math items, snacks, a recipe card to make a math-tastic snack and a deck of cards donated by Turtle Creek Casino and Resort. Eighty-nine Roadrunner families participated. The event included a raffle and prizes for students who turned in their Math Trivia page. Families who weren't able to attend the virtual event can still do the Math Trivia page and turn it into their student's teachers to be included in the raffle.

Turtle Creek Donation

Eastern Elementary School PTO to Host Free Virtual Events

The Eastern Elementary School Parent Teacher Organization (PTO) is proud to present a series of upcoming virtual enrichment events. The events are free and all area students and families are welcome to attend. The goal of the effort is to offer enriching, community-building opportunities for families even though the school is currently unable to host large, in-person events. To access and participate in the live events via Zoom, visit: and login during the event time, or to watch any event live or afterwards visit the PTO’s Facebook page. The first three planned events are as follows:

An Evening of Spanish with Mr. Lascano
Thursday, November 19th, 6:30 p.m.
Listen in, learn and speak Spanish with native speaker, Mr. Lascano. This event will feature a story in Spanish and practicing saying and identifying Spanish words.

Trivia and Game Night with Ms. Kaufman
(Pre K-2)Thursday, December 3rd, 6:15 p.m.
(Grades 3-5)Friday, December 4th, 6:15 p.m.
Get ready for some fun when Ms. Kaufman hosts a trivia/game night that will have you thinking, moving and laughing the whole evening.

Survivor Series Part One with Mr. McNulty
Tuesday, December 15th, 6:30 p.m.
Ever wonder how you’d survive being lost in the woods or stranded on the water? Mr. McNulty will take us behind the scenes with the helicopters, pilots and divers who rescue people in these sorts of situations. Go through their pre-flight checklist and see how they work as a team to make sure everyone survives. (Pre recorded event, no zoom login.)

This Just in…

  • Westwoods PTO Annual Move-A-Thon was held October 27th and 28th. Students participated during their regularly scheduled gym class on one of the two days. This year, the PTO shook things up by having students work together as a team to complete a “spooktacular” scavenger hunt through the woods! This year, $3,966.92 was raised to promote strong minds and strong bodies. Prizes were awarded to the grade level with the most donations and best demonstrated teamwork.
    Spooktacular Move-A-Thon

  • Mrs. Hetfield’s Silver Lake Elementary 2nd graders shared their favorite Halloween song called “Pick a Pumpkin”. Watch the video here.
  • The Cherry Knoll Elementary Read-A-Thon was a huge success! Students raised $22,866 and read 102,552 minutes total. Each day at least one "Mystery Reader" read a special book to kids in school and on the school’s facebook page. At their 80,000 minute goal, Cherry Knoll’s principal, Dr. Derks, read a book from the Cherry Knoll rooftop. It was a great event that encouraged literacy, fostered community, and raised funds for the school.
  • Eastern Elementary School’s Virtual Halloween Costume Parade - Eastern students participated in a virtual costume parade this year. Photos were shared on the Eastern PTO Facebook page and on the big TV in the lobby of school. Click here to see the students in their costumes.
  • Blair Elementary School and Long Lake Elementary held Fall Fun Days on October 30th. At Blair, teachers provided options for fall crafts and other activities. Blair’s amazing PE teacher, Ms. Grahl, planned a spooky obstacle course for the gym. They also participated in an All-School Apple Crunch, which celebrates local farmers and their amazing produce. Long Lake’s Harvest Celebration had students dress up to honor farmers by wearing jeans and a flannel shirt and John Deere swag. Teachers organized prepackaged snacks that were enjoyed by all.
    Students Honor Farmers

  • The Long Lake Elementary Annual Fit-A-Thon raised $12,725 dollars! Team Melvin was #1 overall raising $1,495 dollars. In celebration, her class will be going on a virtual field trip. A total of 177 students registered out of 338. Fun Facts: Donations were from 28 states, 16 students raised over $200 dollars with the top earner raising $400. The top two earners received a $100 dollar gift card to Amazon.
  • Courtade Elementary hosted a Halloween Door Decorating contest. Students and staff worked together to create their own masterpiece to represent their classroom. The winner was Mrs. Ridenour’s class who is now proudly displaying the Courtade Class Cup in their classroom.
    Halloween Door

  • Eastern Elementary Kicks off “One Book All Stars Read” Program - To replace all of the activities that normally happen each fall, the Eastern Stars created the “One Book All Stars Read” program. Every student received a copy of “The One and Only Ivan” by Katherine Applegate. All students will read the book either on their own or with family members. Activities will be shared to coordinate with the book reading and families will share their activities. What a great way to spread the joy of reading.
  • Traverse Heights Brings the Outdoors In - Mrs. Beamish and Mrs. Budd's classes at Traverse Heights Elementary brought the outdoors in with their beautiful artwork.
    Student Artwork

  • Traverse Heights Elementary - WE ARE ONE! - Traverse Heights Elementary School students are able to show "WE ARE ONE!" with their new t-shirts. Each student received a new shirt thanks to local sponsors, Jimmy John's, Gibby's and the Traverse Heights PTO. The WE ARE ONE campaign branches into classroom topics every day to encourage the theme. For example, “WE ARE EXPLORERS” Roadrunners in Mrs. O’s class are learning all about China in the library with Mrs. Mapes. Their finished lanterns are hanging in the library!
    We Are One T-Shirts

  • Eastern Elementary PTO held its annual auction this month. Over $7,500 was raised to support programs at the school.
  • Courtade Elementary hallways are filled with colorful, positive messages!
    Positive Message

Calendar Reminders

Nov. 25 - No School for All Students
Nov. 26-27 - Thanksgiving Recess - No School
Dec. 8 - Early Release for Students (Not BL/TH)
Dec. 15 - Half Day for BL/TH Students Only
Dec. 23-Jan. 1 - Winter Recess - No School
Jan. 4 - School Resumes

District School Year Calendar
Blair/Traverse Heights School Year Calendar
School Dismissal & Bus Route Drop Off Times

G Suite for Education Student Information Disclosure Notification

TCAPS uses G Suite for Education, a set of education productivity tools from Google used by tens of millions of students and teachers around the world. TCAPS students use their G Suite accounts to complete assignments, communicate with their teachers, sign into their Chromebooks, and learn 21st century digital citizenship skills. TCAPS student accounts may access and use the following “Core Services” offered by Google: Gmail, Calendar, Classroom, Cloud Search, Contacts, Docs, Sheets, Slides, Forms, Drive, Groups, Google Meet, Jamboard, Keep, and Sites. Students may also access the following “Additional Services”: Google My Maps, Google Earth, Google Maps, and YouTube.

When creating a student account, TCAPS may provide Google with certain personal information about the student, including, for example, a name, email address, and password. Google may also collect personal information directly from students, such as telephone number for account recovery or a profile photo added to the G Suite for Education account.

When a student uses Google services, Google also collects information based on the use of those services. This includes: device information, such as the hardware model, operating system version, unique device identifiers, and mobile network information including phone number; log information, including details of how a user used Google services, device event information, and the user's Internet protocol (IP) address; location information, as determined by various technologies including IP address, GPS, and other sensors; unique application numbers, such as application version number; and cookies or similar technologies which are used to collect and store information about a browser or device, such as preferred language and other settings. For more information about how Google uses student information, visit the district’s technology webpage.

A parent or legal guardian has the ability to opt-out of their student’s personal information being shared with Google with written notification to the student’s school administrators within the first thirty (30) days of the school year. A student who is at least age eighteen (18) or is an emancipated minor may act on his/her own behalf with respect to the opt-out. If a student is opted-out, the district will not create a G Suite for Education account and Google will not collect or use the student’s information as described in this notice.

A parent or legal guardian can access or request deletion of his/her child’s G Suite for Education account at any time by contacting TCAPS’ technology department at To stop any further collection or use of your child's information, you can request the use of the service controls available to limit your child’s access to features or services, or delete your child’s account entirely. You and your child can also visit while signed in to the G Suite for Education account to view and manage the personal information and settings of the account. View all TCAPS annual notifications.




News & Events

Partners in Education

Grand Traverse County Parks & Recreation logo
Partner in Education

“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 Receives $30,000 Donation from Step Up Northern Michigan to Support Students Experiencing Homelessness

Traverse City Area Public Schools (TCAPS) is pleased to announce it is the recipient of a $30,000 donation from Step Up Northern Michigan to support the Students in Transition Empowerment Program (STEP), which provides services to students who are experiencing homelessness or who lack fixed, adequate housing.

“Providing services for students with the highest risk factors and meeting their academic as well as non-academic needs is a big part of our continuum of support for students at TCAPS,” said Dr. John VanWagoner, Superintendent of Traverse City Area Public Schools. “The challenges facing some of our students are greater than most adults will experience in their lifetimes. We are so grateful to our community partners who consistently ‘step up’ to help our schools provide students the resources and services they need to stay in school and succeed.”

To read the full article click here.

TCAPS Intense Student Support Network (ISSN) Provides Water Bottles for Students in Need

Water Bottles
Through TCAPS' Intense Student Support Network (ISSN), the district has been able to provide 2,000 water bottles across the district for students in need. Drinking fountains are not being used at schools this year to reduce the spread of COVID-19, so these water bottles are essential. Students are able to customize their bottle with their name and stickers to make it their own. For more information about the Intense Student Support Network and how you can help, visit

B.C. Pizza Partners with KHQ to Benefit Students

KHQ BC Pizza Ad
The 106 KHQ Morning Show Robby & Rochelle are partnering with BC Pizza of Traverse City to benefit TCAPS Student Support Network throughout the month of November. Five dollars from every Robby & Rochelle pizza sale will go to support students in need of food support now and the upcoming holiday season. The Robby & Rochelle Pizza is a Large pizza with 1/2 buffalo Chicken and 1/2 BBQ Chicken with Pineapple for just $15! Order online at Thank you!

Let Norte Know How You Get to School!

It's time again for Norte's annual Student Travel Tally, and your family's input is needed. This survey is conducted once per year in November. The survey results help the community create and promote Safe Routes To School and inform decisions for infrastructure investments, design, and related policies. Even if your family drives to school every day, your input is also needed and essential. Click here to complete Norte’s survey.

Grass River Natural Area Donates 400 Field Guides to TCAPS Libraries

Field Guide
TCAPS received a set of 25 copies of the 2nd Edition of the Grass River Natural Area's Field Guide to Northwest Michigan for each school library. The new, expanded 2nd edition of the regional best-selling guide on Northwest Michigan now describes over 500 species of plants, animals, insects and more. This volume summarizes the varied flora, fauna, and other natural wonders of Northwest Michigan Region and the land preserved at the Grass River Natural Area.

Grass River Natural Area is a 1,492 acre nature preserve surrounding the Grass River, located in the heart of Antrim County. Along with the beautiful views of Grass River, it also offers seven miles of well-maintained trails including 1.5 miles of boardwalk floating above northern fen and cedar wetlands. With all of these natural features, Grass River Natural Area offers visitors an outdoor, living laboratory to explore and learn. The Grass River Center is open year-round, offering a comfortable learning environment for public programming, school field trips, camps, and more. Click here for more information about Grass River Natural Area and the guide.

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Traverse City Area Public Schools
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