TCAPS Offers Online Program to Students in Five County Area
"UpNorth Virtual is a fully online program. It’s really an expansion of our current programming."
Students have been out of school since March – devoting the last half of last semester to online learning due to the pandemic. But with many parents uneasy about sending their kids back to class, online schooling is becoming a permanent option in the TCAPS district.
Interim Superintendent Jim Pavelka, who is spending his last full-day with the district before his “re-retirement”, looks back on his career with school administration. He says technology was one of the first controversies. “I can remember the big debate whether to go manual typewriters or electric typewriters.” The more things change – the more they stay the same. “I can remember my first superintendency, the business department being upset that we were looking at using computers to teach typing.”
And now school districts everywhere are making computers the focus of learning: from home. “Technology is literally changing the way we live. We work from home, we can go to school at home, we can teach from home. Schools are a reflection of society. And as society changes so do schools.”
The pandemic that shuttered schools in March was a turning point, according to the TCAPS Director of School Improvement, Heidi Maltby-Skodack. “I think that was really a pivotal point in thinking about education differently. And how we offer programming and services to our families and students.” When schools shut down in the spring, it forced school districts and their leaders to look to the future. “It certainly pushed us to think about how to serve all our families in a different way. And really pulled us together as a team to try to problem solve that and be able to offer different options.”
That’s why TCAPS is launching “UpNorth Virtual” – a fully online schooling option. Maltby-Skodack says, “They will be taught by Michigan certified teachers. As well as, we know that connection to schools is very important. Students will also have the ability to participate in any sort of activity at their home school.” Going fully online still includes access to counseling services and extra-curriculars like athletics and school musicals. “We also have built-in supports with the TCAPS staff. Our goal is to make sure students are successful no matter what programming option they choose. So being able to identify a TCAPS support person to touch base with students, make sure they’re on track.”
TCAPS says this is an expansion of current programming – because they’ve been offering 1-and-2 class options for the past 15 years. Pavelka says, “It’s a choice that parents are going to have to make. Our job is to make sure we have options for them. They are taxpayers here, they are citizens here. So our job is to make sure they have a quality option. And this is a quality option.”
And the program is not just for Traverse City students – UpNorth Virtual is open to all students in the five-county region.
You can learn more here.