TRAVERSE CITY — The Traverse City Area Public Schools board unanimously approved a plan to enroll up to 200 Chinese high school students — a move that will bring in millions of dollars of tuition money and diversify the student body.
But board members advised starting slowly.
“Let’s do it carefully, slowly and well, and grow it over time,” said board member Marjorie Rich.
The board approved a memorandum of understanding Monday, which clears the way for a tentatively planned Oct. 16 signing with officials from the Weiming Education Group, one of China’s largest private schools.
The school caters to Chinese parents who want an American education, in part to increase their children’s English proficiency. They also prefer the greater emphasis in problem-solving and innovation, said Superintendent Stephen Cousins before the meeting.
“They may be doing business with Americans, and they have a secondary motivation of wanting to get into American colleges,” he said.
Cousins didn’t know whether TCAPS students will attend Weiming.
“We haven’t entered the conversation,” he said.
Cousins told the board he didn’t want to accept more than 70 Weiming students next school year. The specific number will depend on how many host families step forward.
“Thirty to fifty is a manageable number for the first year,” he said.
Weiming will pay $10,000 in tuition for each student. The state will pay an additional $7,000 for students in their junior year. But even if the state pays nothing in the future, the school will still net about $5,000 per student, after expenses — money that can be flexibly used to invest in the district, Cousins said.
Board member Julie Puckett said the exchange will bring the world to Traverse City for students who don’t travel.
“It gives them a bigger view. The world is not just this little bubble we live in,” she said.