Traverse City News and Events

TCAPS, Interlochen Center For The Arts Reach Settlement In Interlochen Community School Dispute

By Craig Manning | March 22, 2022

After more than a year of legal dispute, Interlochen Center for the Arts (ICA) and Traverse City Area Public Schools (TCAPS) have announced a “mutually agreeable settlement” regarding the future of the Interlochen Community School building. The settlement will allow ICA to move forward with plans to use the building for community purposes, but will also bar the institution from operating the building as a charter or public school in the immediate future.

Interlochen Community School was owned by ICA years ago, but was leased to TCAPS in 1950 under the stipulation that TCAPS use the property for “public school purposes.” TCAPS met that requirement for decades by operating Interlochen Community School as one of its elementary schools. But when TCAPS shuttered the school in 2016 due to declining enrollments throughout the region, the district effectively reneged on its end of the deal. TCAPS ran a short-lived homeschool program called the Northern Michigan Partnership at the building from 2017 to 2019, but a funding dispute with the Michigan Department of Education ultimately led to the program’s termination.

In October 2020, ICA formally initiated legal proceedings to activate a reverter clause in the TCAPS lease, which stated that the school property should be returned to ICA if TCAPS stopped using it for public school purposes. Last August, Judge Kevin Elsenheimer of the 13th Circuit Court ruled in favor of ICA, finding that the NMP was “a non-public home school association” and that TCAPS had therefore not met the conditions of the lease since closing Interlochen Community School in 2016.

TCAPS initially appealed the ruling, but has now dismissed that appeal as part of a settlement with ICA. The settlement reaffirms Elsenheimer’s court ruling through a resolution that “acknowledges [ICA] as the owner of the property and school.” It also means that, since the building is no longer subject to ongoing litigation, ICA is free to move forward with plans to utilize the property for a variety of different community purposes.

According to the joint ICA/TCAPS press release that accounced the settlement, ICA has already used the Interlochen Community School building for several “short-term projects” since re-taking ownership of it last summer, including “Michigan State Police Canine training, Fire Department training, community recreational activities, and film shoots by Interlochen Arts Academy Film & New Media students.”

This summer, ICA will use the building as the headquarters for its Arts Discovery Day Camp, which “gives local children ages 7-12 the chance to experience the magic of an Interlochen summer at a reduced cost, with flexible one-week sessions offered between June 20 and August 5.” The press release also noted that ICA has “begun exploring the feasibility of utilizing part of the Interlochen Community School property for a much-needed daycare,” and that other options being considered “include after-school extracurricular arts programs for Traverse City-area children, early education programs, joint programming with the Interlochen Public Library, and arts classes for adults through Interlochen College of Creative Arts.”

What ICA won’t be using the Interlochen Community School building for – at least in the near future – is as a formal, traditional K-12 school. The settlement agreement stipulates that ICA cannot utilize the building “to operate as a charter or public school through the 2028-29 school year.” Beyond that date, ICA must offer TCAPS “the right of first refusal to operate a public school on the property before sponsoring or operating a charter or public school at the location.”

Finally, the settlement paves the way for future “mutually beneficial collaboration” between ICA and TCAPS, and not just in regards to the Interlochen Community School building. “For example, both organizations will regularly review idle assets that may be of use to one another, such as Kresge Auditorium during graduation season and bus availability during the summer,” the press release stated. “TCAPS will engage with Interlochen area community leaders as part of its upcoming strategic planning process, and partner with Interlochen to raise awareness of summer employment opportunities as well as camp opportunities (both day and residential programs) to TCAPs students.”

“The amicable resolution of this case allows Interlochen to move forward with plans for restoring this community asset, and partnering with TCAPS to benefit area residents and families,” ICA President Trey Devey said of the settlement.

 

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