TCAPS Prepares For New Montessori Construction, Shares More Details On School Year Start Plans
By Beth Milligan | Aug. 27, 2020
Site work will begin in September on a planned new Montessori school on Franke Road after Traverse City Area Public Schools (TCAPS) board members approved a contract Monday to conduct excavation and grading work this fall, with building construction set to follow next spring. Also at Monday’s board meeting, TCAPS staff shared more details on the district’s reopening plans for fall – with more than 10 percent of the student population, or over 1,100 students, already committed to virtual instruction for the upcoming semester.
Franke Road Montessori School
TCAPS board trustees voted Monday to award an $807,500 contract to Walton Contracting to complete site work this fall on the property of a planned new Montessori school on Franke Road.
Walton Contracting was the lowest bidder of three companies that competed for the project, with other bids coming in at $838,119 (Molon Excavating) and $1,049,950 (Elmer’s Crane and Dozer). TCAPS Associate Superintendent of Finance & Operations Christine Thomas-Hill said all of the bids came in under budget; initial cost projections were $1.3 million. Walton Contracting is expected to start earthwork – including excavation and grading – on the site in mid-September, as well as sanitary sewer relocation, storm sewer work, soil erosion control, temporary seeding, and detention basin work. The project is expected to be finished by late November.
The site work will get the property ready for construction of the new Montessori school building next spring. TCAPS officials voted in February to relocate the district’s Montessori program from its current home at the aging Glenn Loomis building on Oak Street, building an estimated $16 million new facility on district-owned property on Franke Road. A separate contract to build the new school will be put out to bid in January, with a contract awarded in February or March and construction starting in March or April. Building construction is expected to last through August 2022, with the goal of having students and faculty in the building in time for the start of the 2022-23 school year.
Landscape Architect Woody Isaacs of VIRIDIS Design Group told trustees the site has some difficult topography, with a 20-foot change in grade from the low point of an adjacent retention pond up to the nearby West Middle School running track. “Everything will be ADA compliant, but it is a challenging site in terms of earth work and storm drainage and so forth,” he said. The property is also a “pretty critical site with a lot of wetlands to the north,” Isaacs noted, adding that “we do take soil erosion control measures very seriously.” The district’s soil erosion plan has already been approved by the Grand Traverse County Soil Erosion and Sedimentation Control department, with additional permit review underway by the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes & Energy (EGLE). TCAPS will also conduct a traffic study as part of preparations, with staff hopeful they will be able to construct two separate driveways from the school property onto Franke Road. Since Montessori families must provide their own transportation to school, Thomas-Hill said having a second driveway would be “really important” in terms of coordinating student drop-offs and pick-ups.
With deep looming district budget cuts expected because of the pandemic, staff noted Monday that the new school is being funded through a 2018 voter-approved capital bond plan – monies that can only be spent on certain project areas, including buildings, facilities, and land. Those funds “cannot be used for things like salary or curriculum,” Thomas-Hill said. She added that TCAPS was hopeful that, as with site work, building constructiom will come in under budget. “We’re seeing construction costs come down, so we’re hopeful that will happen on the next (bid) package as well,” she told trustees.
TCAPS Fall Reopening Plans
More than 10 percent of TCAPS’ student population has committed to virtual instruction for the upcoming semester – with registration still open for another month for one of the district’s two virtual plans.
TCAPS recently announced it would offer not one but two virtual learning options this fall: UpNorth Virtual On Demand and UpNorth Virtual Live. The first is a 100-percent on-demand (prerecorded), self-paced learning program taught by Michigan-certified teachers with support from TCAPS staff. The program utilizes online platform Lincoln Learning for K-5 students and Edgenuity for secondary students. UpNorth Virtual Live, however, is a blend of live remote and on-demand learning, with core classes taught remotely by TCAPS teachers and electives taken either in person at school buildings or online through Lincoln Learning and Edgenuity. A minimum of 25 students must be enrolled per live core class for UpNorth Virtual Live, while UpNorth Virtual On Demand classes have no minimum student enrollment requirements.
TCAPS families had until 11:59pm Wednesday to register for UpNorth Virtual Live for the fall semester. As of The Ticker’s press time Wednesday, 832 students were enrolled in UpNorth Virtual Live and 330 in UpNorth Virtual On Demand – a total of 1,162 students who have committed to virtual learning for the fall semester, or more than 10 percent of TCAPS’ student population. The enrollment breakdown is as follows:
> UpNorth Virtual Live: 227 High School, 199 Middle School, 406 Elementary School
> UpNorth Virtual On Demand: 127 High School, 66 Middle School, 137 Elementary School
While registration is now closed for the semester for UpNorth Virtual Live – a deadline that was necessary to hire enough TCAPS staff for the semester – families can continue to enroll in UpNorth Virtual On Demand through September 28. The district has published an FAQ guide on both programs. All TCAPS students will start the first two weeks of school remotely, with in-person instruction tentatively scheduled to resume September 21. Board trustees will meet September 14 to decide if that schedule will remain or if remote learning will continue longer into fall. TCAPS staff also shared an updated safety plan Monday for returning to school. The plan includes requiring all students and staff to wear cloth or disposable masks in classrooms, common areas, and buses; asking parents to screen students daily for coronavirus symptoms; installing MERV 13 filters in buildings; and pulling in outside air instead of recirculating air inside wherever possible. The plan also outlines remote/virtual classroom schedules and learning expectations for various grades for the fall.Comment