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      Exchange program in need of host families

      Northern Michigan's largest school district is welcoming dozens of exchange students from China, but the search continues to find host families.

      Traverse City Area Public Schools will have 51 visiting students and teachers starting January 21. The Chinese exchange students will be in the 9th or 10th grade and have passed an English fluency test to take part in the program.

      The students will be in the Traverse City area through February 17.

      The exchange program was set up after six representatives from TCAPS attended a conference in China. The November trip was sponsored by the Hanban Institute and included 400 educators throughout the United States.

      According to a newsletter from TCAPS Superintendent Steve Cousins, TCAPS is moving aggressively to increase student exchanges with schools in other countries to improve the opportunity for students. Exchanges are intended to be two way: students coming into TCAPS and TCAPS students attending schools in other countries.

      The trip to China did spark controversy. The school leaders left for the trip the day after the district's 100-million-dollar bond proposal was rejected by voters. While 70-percent of the trip cost was paid for by China's Hanban Institute, the trip still cost taxpayers 7-thousand-dollars.

      7&4 News met wth TCAPS Chief Financial Officer Paul Soma in November about the controversy. Soma said it was a trip with very low risk with potential for a large return.

      "It's 7-thousand-dollars in an 85-million-dollar general fund, the potential return is huge. There's not many places we can invest 7-thousand-dollars for a return that may be 10, 20, 30 times that amount," said Soma.

      If you would like to take part in the short-term exchange program, click here for more information .