Staff members of the Alternative Educational Academy of Iosco County flank their school’s new Tawas City building at 40 W. M-55. From left, Helen Lounsbury, teacher; Tricia Young, administrative assistant; Kim Kaems, teacher; Andrea Balliet, Student Advocate; Stephanie Davis, teacher; and Tina Williams, AEA director.

TAWAS CITY – The Alternative Educational Academy of Iosco County opened the 2020-21 school year – its ninth year – at a new Tawas City home.

AEA purchased and renovated the former Tawas Masonic Lodge, located at 40 W. M-55. The Academy had been renting classroom space in Michigan Works! in East Tawas since 2012. 

“The move to our new location couldn’t have come at a better time,” said Tina Williams, AEA director. “We were in much need of additional space as more and more students began using our learning lab. 

“The AEA is now able to offer our students additional supports and opportunities that come with a larger facility.”

The Alternative Educational Academy is a publicly chartered high school offering students online courses with access to certified teachers and support staff in its learning labs.

The Tawas campus is among four AEA locations that serve 300 students including in Oscoda, West Branch and Gladwin. 

AEA’s new Tawas location also offers licensed childcare for infants and toddlers, age 0-3 years, provided by Northeast Michigan Community Service Agency’s Early Head Start. The childcare center serves both AEA students who are parents and the broader Iosco County community. 

“It’s a definite improvement to be in our own building,” said McCarty Graham, a junior at AEA. “Having more space, especially now with the virus, makes it safer. It’s just easier to learn.” 

Students in Iosco RESA’s Building Trades program prepared the way for AEA building renovations by doing site prep in the former Masonic Lodge. Contractors then refurbished the building to ready it for this school year’s opening. 

This month, AEA students are taking part in statewide SAT and PSAT testing. In months ahead, students and staff look forward to more community experiences when they’re able to resume field trips and community service events. 

“Moving here made a big difference” said Victoria Neiser, an AEA senior. “We’re not so confined anymore, so we can get more help in an extra classroom. I just focus better.”

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