BY MICHAEL WALTON
— TRAVERSE CITY -- Traverse City Area Public Schools obtained tentative agreements for several exchange programs during school officials' recent trip to China.
TCAPS administrators reached agreements with Chinese officials from the high school and middle school at Dalian Technological University, and Beijing's Wangjing Nanhu Dongyuan primary school.
"Our goal was to get at least one agreement for high school student exchanges," Superintendent Stephen Cousins said. "To come back with three, we were excited about that."
As many as 60 high school students likely will have their first opportunity to study in Dalian for 40 days starting June 1. Yearlong student exchanges could start next fall.
Middle and elementary school exchanges also could begin as early as next year. Those trips will be shorter than the high school exchanges, and parents will travel with elementary school students who go overseas.
The agreements also establish a 40-day exchange for up to 60 Chinese students. They will attend West and Central high schools beginning in January. Several Chinese teachers will take part in the exchange.
Traverse City instructors will similarly have chances to travel to Chinese schools as the exchanges unfold.
Students from both countries will live with host families while abroad.
District officials also found a sister school for the International School at Bertha Vos and received roughly $6,000 worth of Chinese language and culture teaching materials.
Bertha Vos originally planned to partner with Zhongguancun No. 4 Primary School, but Bertha Vos Director Katie Bonne said Wangjing Nanyuan's curricular focus on culture and arts made it a better choice.
Bertha Vos students already spend 30 minutes each day learning Mandarin. Bonne said the new exchange programs, sister-school arrangement and teaching materials will help students throughout the district learn more about a country playing with an increasingly important role in global affairs.
"We hope it opens up our students to more experiences with Chinese culture," she said.