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October 2020
Continuing Connections

News & Events

Partner in Education

Superintendent's Message
In the last few weeks, we have seen much of the learning and activities beginning to take the shape of a typical school year, with a few necessary changes or modifications for student and staff health and safety. We have moved beyond learning new routines and procedures and advanced past the fall assessments and check-ins. Now, we are beginning to see students really mastering concepts and growing their learning. For this, I am extremely grateful.

I also continue to hear from students, staff, and families about how welcome it has been to connect with each other and to be learning together again, either face-to-face or virtually this school year. I look forward to this momentum continuing through the end of the first semester, and beyond. However, in order to keep our face-to-face learning happening for as long as possible, I need your help, particularly as we enter the holiday season.

As you consider your holiday traditions and finalize your family plans, I ask that everyone thinks about the ways we can help to slow the spread of COVID-19 and protect those who are most vulnerable to the virus. Mask wearing, frequent hand washing/sanitizing, and maintaining social distance, whenever possible, are layers of protection that are proving to be effective against the spread of COVID-19. Our goal is to keep our “Safe Start” going and to allow face-to-face instruction to continue for as long as we are able. It will take all of us to help our community and our schools stay safe and stay open.

Finally, if you haven’t already, I would encourage you to fill out the TCAPS 2020-2021 Safe Start Feedback Survey that was shared with all families in the district yesterday. I would also invite you to watch the video we shared at the most recent Board of Education meeting thanking our incredible staff for a great start to the school year.


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

Headlee Rollback Prevention





Partner in Education

TCAPS News & Events
Rainbow Over Courtade Elementary School

Thanks to Mrs. P. and Ms. Sam for this great shot over Courtade Elementary School taken October 2nd!

Check Out the Latest Episodes of Live from the Opera House: It’s Storytime!

TCAPS, the City Opera House, and Newton’s Road are pleased to share the most recent episodes of Live from the Opera: It’s Storytime!, courtesy of series underwriter, Belle Tire.

Storytime_Trombone Shorty

Storytime_Mission to Space

Storytime_Balloons Over Broadway

Storytime_Squash Boom Beet

“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 through October.

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 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 event.

Light the Path to a Happy Kid Parent Workshop Resounding Success

Light the Path

The Light the Path to a Happy Kid Parent Workshop series had over 600 families participate! The workshop sessions were offered over a six week period and covered topics such as Anxiety, Mindfulness, Dealing with Stress, Digital Literacy, Healthy Eating, ACES and Empathy. The event featured local experts as well as international speakers and authors. Many of the sessions were recorded and can be found on the Light the Path to a Happy Kid website:

Thank you to the following committee members who made this event possible: Kate Burwinkel, Linda Melvin, Melissa Morrice, Angela Jayne Gorenflo, Misti Warner, Katie Westfall, Michelle Brown, Kirsten Morgan, Lis Bank, Heidi Skodack, Kim Bails, Kirk Ranney, Jen Wohlfert, Jacqueline Glikman, Kelly DeLonge, Danielle Portillo, Danielle Oster, Adam VanHouten, Cassie McCall, and Danelle Brostrom.

“We hope this is the first year of an annual event,” said Long Lake Principal Kate Burwinkel. “The parent survey showed a 96.5% positive response for participants in future events and included some very positive comments including the following:

"Thank you TCAPS for this. We have participated in this since the first presentation. These have been amazing. I am looking forward to watching those presentations that we did not participate in live."

"Loved this series. Cannot thank you all enough."

"Thank you! This was a great series with so many wonderful speakers. I gathered many excellent resources and ideas. Thank you!!!"

"Thank you for all the time you spent planning and arranging this series AND making school safe for our children. You all are amazing!"

The event included raffle prizes for participating from area sponsors. The following is the list of winners:

Raffle Winners:
$350 Meijer Gift Card: Cara Eule
Gift Box to H. Wilder Eporium in Leland: Wendy Intrieri
Moomer Gift Cards: Hilary Martinez and Trina Hidalgo
Costco Gift Cards: Amy Barron and Jen Smits
Oryanna Gift Card: Nathan Hartman

Thank you to the entire team for creating an incredible resource for TCAPS families.

This Just in…

Unity Tree

Central Grade School and Eastern Elementary Celebrate Unity Month

October is Unity Month. Students are decorating Unity Trees and Posters to emphasize the message of spreading kindness to one another, treating each other how we want to be treated, and coming together as a school community.
Spreading Love and Kindness
Eastern Stars came together to show some love for their very own Wonder Woman, Mrs. Nelson, while Westwoods Wings did the very same for Mrs. Johnson.
Karen's Warriors

Westwoods Strong

Long Lake Apple Crunch for the Fifth Year
Long Lake Elementary School participated in the Great Lakes Apple Crunch, an annual event to celebrate locally sourced produce. The Gallagher family, who have three students who attend Long Lake, generously donated an apple for every student. This year, they had to think creatively to continue with this tradition safely. Classrooms tuned into a Google Meet and they all crunched together.
Long Lake Apple Crunch

Long Lake Apple Crunch

Traverse Heights Elementary School Bike the Heights Night
Traverse Heights Elementary School held their first Bike the Heights Night on October 9, 2020, with Norte and Principal Bryan Kay. Imagine the surprise our families had to find a pig on their first awesome ride that night.
Traverse Heights Bike Night

Cherry Knoll Embraces OnWatch Program
Cherry Knoll Elementary School has been steadfast in utilizing their community risk experts for teaching the OnWatch injury prevention topics to students. OnWatch is a program from the Grand Traverse Metro Emergency Services Authority that focuses on seven main areas of risk; Fire Safety, Emergencies, Winter Safety, Poison Prevention, Wheeled Sports/Pedestrian Safety, Motor Vehicle Safety and Water Safety.

October is Fire Prevention month and you can view the virtual classroom lesson or on the Grand Traverse Metro Fire Department Fire Prevention Month Facebook page.

TCAPS Students Named National Merit Scholars

Seven TCAPS students have been selected as Semifinalists and 11 were named Commended Students in the 66th annual National Merit Scholarship Program.

“Being listed in the National Merit Scholar Competition is a very high honor and we are incredibly proud of our students’ national level academic achievements,” said Dr. John VanWagoner, superintendent of Traverse City Area Public Schools. “We are also proud of our teachers, principals and staff at all levels whose support has helped students attain these high levels of academic success.”

Traverse City Central High School students Elijah “Mac” Chung, Paige Conners, Henry Huschke, Ethan Roe, Amelia Shotwell, and Samuel Simon and Traverse City West Senior High School student Natalie Heitman were among the 16,000 students who have been named 2020 National Merit Semifinalists. Semifinalists have the opportunity to continue in the competition for 7,600 National Merit Scholarships worth more than $30 million, which will be offered next spring. Less than one percent of all U.S. high school seniors make it into the semifinal round of the competition.

In addition, Central High School students Isabel Aulicino, Nicholas Barresi, Sierra Batcha, Sara “Lou” DeZeeuw, Georgia Heintz, Jack Kernan, Erin O’Donnell, Oliver Phillips, Kyra Stobert, and Shane Taylor and West Senior High School student Levi Fles were named Commended Students in recognition of their outstanding academic promise.

About 1.5 million juniors in more than 21,000 high schools entered the 2021 National Merit Scholarship Program by taking the 2019 PSAT/NMSQT, which serves as an initial screen of program entrants. Semifinalists who qualify as Finalists will be notified in February 2021.

Grand Traverse Regional Community Foundation Grants Available

Attention TCAPS staff! The Grand Traverse Regional Community Foundation has two competitive grants available specifically for TCAPS. Applications are accepted year-round via a Google form. They are reviewed in November and awarded in December each year. This year, the application deadline is November 2, 2020.

Assisting Children’s Education Endowment: supports a variety of K-12 programs within TCAPS to help students and teachers develop and implement innovative ideas that are student-focused, curriculum-based and promote academic excellence. Grant awards support K-12 classroom activities throughout TCAPS that are not otherwise funded by the District's operational budget. 2020 Amount Available: $12,545

Titan Excellence Endowment: supports programs or projects to benefit students of Traverse City West Senior High, with a primary focus on supporting student life and academics. Programs or projects for music or athletics are also considered. Projects could include, but are not limited to: basic classroom materials, extracurricular activities or new clubs, school-related events, support for student involvement in community service projects, field trips (including cultural arts activities). 2020 Amount Available: $1,664. Click here to access the Google form application. Anyone with questions regarding the application or process can contact:

tcapsloop weekly podcast

Calendar Reminders

Nov. 1 - Daylight Savings Time
Nov. 3 - Election Day - No School for All Students
Nov. 6 - Half Day of School for All Students
Nov. 11 - Half Day for BL/TH Students Only
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

Meal Service Information for "No School" Days

TCAPS students participating in the district's face-to-face learning option will still have access to meals for the November "No School" days designated in the district school year calendar. Meal service information for the November days where school is not in session is as follows:

Tuesday, November 3rd (Election Day) - No School for Students
On request, additional meals may be picked up during the Saturday, October 31st, meal distribution at TC West Middle School between 8:00 a.m. - 10:00 a.m.

November 25-27 (Thanksgiving Recess) - No School for Students
Meals for the three day period may be picked on Wednesday, November 25th, at TC West Middle School between 8:00 a.m. - 10:00 a.m.

November 28-29 Weekend
The regular Saturday weekend meal service option will resume on Saturday, November 28th, for Saturday and Sunday meals. Pickup is at TC West Middle School between 8:00 a.m. - 10:00 a.m.

The weekly meal service schedule for students participating in the district's UpNorth Virtual Live and On Demand options remains unchanged. Saturday meal pickups for November will be held on November 7th, 14th, 21st, and 28th, from 8:00 a.m. - 10:00 a.m. at TC West Middle School.

Meals will be distributed in the front parking lot between the main entrance and the loading dock. The person picking up the meals is asked to stay in their car. Food service staff members will deliver the meals directly to you.

District menus and additional information regarding the 2020-2021 Food and Nutrition Services plan can be found at




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.”

Traverse Heights Elementary School Receives $5,000 Donation from New Burlington Store

Burlington Stores, the national off-price retailer, through its partnership with the national non-profit organization,, has donated $5,000 towards school supplies to Traverse Heights Elementary School in celebration of its new store now open in Traverse City at 3450 W South Airport Rd.

Burlington Donation

A representative from contacted school administrators and helped to secure the donation for Traverse Heights, which will provide $312.50 in new supplies for each teacher’s classroom.

“On behalf of TCAPS and Traverse Heights, I would like to thank our new local Burlington store and for their generous donation to our school,” said Traverse Heights Principal Bryan Kay. “Our teachers are so excited to use the donation to purchase additional tools to support student learning, particularly in a year where we anticipate having increased needs.”

Burlington is committed to supporting education through its partnership with Each time Burlington opens a new store, they celebrate by adopting and funding a local elementary school in the market. For more information about the company, visit is a national nonprofit that provides flexible funding for K-12 teachers and schools throughout the U.S. For more information, please visit

Premium Joy Donates 200 Foam Puzzles to TCAPS - Over $5,000 Value

Premium Joy Puzzle
Receiving emails like the one we received from Premium Joy managing partner, Hassan Assibldad, are always such a nice surprise. Eleven buildings and over 30 classrooms will benefit from the donation of 200 brand new 54-piece floor puzzles. This educational toy is a fantastic tool to promote problem solving and hand-eye coordination skills for our youngest learners. Each puzzle includes several delightful creatures in a lovely nature scene. Thank you, Premium Joy!

Traverse City Sunrise Rotary Club Gives Extra Gift to TCAPS

Rotary Backpack Donation
Traverse City Area Public Schools has received a donation from the Traverse City Sunrise Rotary Club of an additional 400 backpacks to be provided to middle and high school students this year. The donation is above and beyond the hundreds of backpacks and school supplies already provided to area families through the Club’s annual Backpack for Kids program.

“Our middle schools and high schools anticipated an increased need to provide students with backpacks this year because secondary students aren't using lockers due to the pandemic,” said Christine Guitar, Executive Director of Communications for Traverse City Area Public Schools, whose office helps advance the school district’s Intense Student Support Network mission of reducing non-academic barriers to learning. “Now, thanks to this additional donation, students who need them, will have a new, safe place to keep their belongings. As a Sunrise Rotarian myself, I couldn’t be prouder to be a member of an organization that is always ready to answer the call on behalf of students in our community.”

“The Sunrise Rotary’s motto is service above self," said Dave Burgen, Backpacks for Kids Committee Chair. "There are so many families and students who could use a little extra hand to prepare for school, which is why one of our Club’s signature projects is the Backpacks for Kids program. When TCAPS reached out and asked if we had just a little more to give to help middle and high school students and families this year, we were happy to be able to help."

Since 2004, the Sunrise Rotary Backpacks for Kids program has donated new backpacks filled with school supplies to TCAPS students in grades K-5, high school students enrolled in the STEP program, as well as to other partner agencies. Since the program's inception, they have donated over 14,000 backpacks. Learn more about the program and how you can help.

TBA Credit Union Donates $1,300 to TCAPS

TBA Credit Union (TBACU) has donated $1,300 to the school district to support elementary and middle school efforts to create do-it-yourself ice packs to use outdoors and during recess. The goal is to reduce the need for students to go into the office throughout the school day, which will help reduce the risk of potential exposure to COVID-19 and supports keeping students in their cohort, whenever possible.

TBA Credit Union Donation

“TBA Credit Union is always there when we need support," said Christine Guitar, Executive Director of Communications for Traverse City Area Public Schools. "When our schools and district nursing office put their heads together, they came up with this great idea to help keep students out of the main office when they need to get something for the minor bumps and bruises they might experience during recess or play time outside. These recess packs weren’t something that was previously budgeted for, so to have a community partner like TBA Credit Union that we can rely on to help us through the unexpected twists and turns in life is very helpful. From sponsorships to support LEAP scholarships, to classroom grants, to school supplies, we are grateful to TBA Credit Union for always being a Partner In Education.”

The TCAPS Partner In Education program is designed to provide businesses and organizations with an opportunity to support education in a way that is meaningful and beneficial. To become a TCAPS Partner In Education, visit: For more information about TBA Credit Union, visit:

Traverse City Home Depot Donates Buckets to Eastern Elementary School

Eastern Elementary School has received a donation of 60 five-gallon buckets from the Traverse City Home Depot. The buckets will be used in the school’s music classroom to allow students in kindergarten through 5th grade to explore bucket drumming. Students will use the buckets to learn about steady beat, composition, playing as an ensemble, and rhythmic literacy. The school is grateful for the donation and the music students are already enjoying using the buckets in the classroom.
Home Depot Bucket Drums

Sam’s Club Donates Deck Box to Traverse Heights

Special thanks to Sam's Club Traverse City General Manager Jesse Gauna for helping Traverse Heights Elementary School. Principal Bryan Kay had an urgent need for an outdoor storage box to help keep recess items in their appropriate zones. "I made the call to Jesse and, of course, he was there to save the day," said Partner In Education Coordinator Karyn Hertel. "Jesse is such a wonderful community partner. We are incredibly grateful for Sam's Club’s support of our students and schools."
Sam's Club Deck Box
Jesse Gauna and Principal Bryan Kay

Traverse City Community Members Step Up with Mask Donations

Many, many, thanks are in order to some incredible friends of TCAPS. Thank you to TCAPS Board Member Jane Klegman, TCAPS Executive Assistant to the Associate Superintendent Katie Kubesh and her daughters Sammy, Ella and Sophie, Kerry Hamilton, Colleen Fowler, Fran Raymond, Judy McCaw and former TCAPS Executive Assistant to the Superintendent Patti Brzezinski for donating collectively over 1,000 masks to the district to share with schools that need them.

Mask Makers
Sammy, Ella, and Sophie Kubesh

The staff is grateful to have these masks on hand to assist students who forget or lose their masks, while the students are loving the comfort and fun materials chosen to create them.

Mask Gift

All TCAPS schools are seeking donations of 2-ply washable cloth masks to have on hand as extras at schools. If you have some to share or are interested in making some, please contact Karyn Hertel at 231-933-1790 or, or donate them to the school of your choice by taking them to the front office.

Book Donations to LMC

Cheryl Gross donated 11 box sets of “Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls: The Chapter Book Collection”; one for each elementary school. This generous donation will introduce young readers to five extraordinary women in history and teach them that anything is possible when you overcome challenges to follow your dreams.

Cheryl Gross Book Donation

Also, a Massachusetts teacher and author of children's books, Cyndi Bussey, caught our episode of "Live from the Opera House: It's Storytime!" with CEO and treasure hunter Marty Lagina. She is a huge Oak Island fan and wrote a book titled "Annie Goes to Oak Island" in cooperation with Mr. Lagina. She offered to send some copies of the book to Traverse City. Thank you, Cyndi Bussey and Annie, for sending enough books for each of our elementary libraries. This is such a treat for our students especially with the local connection. For more information on Ms. Bussey and Annie, go to

Together, we are showing our commitment to students by offering the support needed to help them to reach their full potential. Thank you, both, for being a TCAPS Partner In Education.

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Traverse City Area Public Schools
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