Merrill Charter Serves Students StatewideSubmitted: 04/03/2013
Story By Lex Gray

MERRILL - As odd as it may sound, hundreds of kids are enrolled in the Merill School District without actually living anywhere near Merrill.

That's the new reality of virtual school.

Bridges Virtual Academy opened this year.

Administrator John Hagemeister expected about 100 kids to enroll. Instead, he got 500 from all over the state.

That's because Hagemeister's idea is unique. Before Bridges, he homeschooled his own kids.

He wanted to combine the freedom of homeschooling with the resources of public school.

The Reimer family of Arbor Vitae made the switch to Bridges this year.

"We do our schooling at home, but we're not technically homeschooling anymore," says Kathy Reimer.

As a homeschooler, Reimer wasn't allowed to take part in public school classes.

But Bridges Virtual Academy gives her more options.

"We did art lessons at the Campanile Center, piano lessons, and dance lessons for the girls," she said. "We probably could've provided one lesson for them, but this allows us to give them opportunities to do things we wouldn't normally be able to do."

John Hagemeister started the academy with more opportunities in mind.

"These are taxpayers and if you homeschool, they don't get anything in return. Some people like it that way, because there's no entanglement, there's no extras," he said. "But if there's a way we can partner, why shouldn't we try? They're taxpayers, they're community members, they're looking for some kind of educational service through us, so let's try and do it."

Taxpayers - including the Reimers - bought a computer for each of her kids. They also share an iPad and have access to teachers.

There is a trade-off for that support. As a homeschooler, Reimer didn't have to evaluate her kids at all. Now, she has to administer school and state tests.

But that doesn't bother her.

"The testing only confirms what I already know," she said. "Because you're homeschooling, you know your kids' strengths and you know your kids' weaknesses."

But beyond the testing, Reimer still gets to do things her way. That's different from most virtual schools.

"A typical virtual school is like taking this and putting it online, the brick and mortar and putting it online, and that's not what they're looking for," Hagemeister said. "They're looking for something that's flexible, time wise, curriculum wise."

"That opens up our ability to do things for our kids, and give them opportunities that we couldn't give them," Reimer said. "So that is a really great thing."

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What We're Working OnSubmitted: 12/01/2015

- Children covered the Christmas tree outside the Minocqua Town Hall with ornaments and decorations Tuesday, but they weren't any old ornaments. Tonight at 5, we'll show you how each one had a special message of thanks.

- Plus, it's the first night when high school basketball is in full swing in the Northwoods. We'll have a preview.

We'll have the details on these stories and more tonight on Newswatch 12 - news from where you live.

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RHINELANDER - Police think an Outagamie County man saw a well-known Oneida County crime site as an opportunity.

Thirty-eight-year-old Mark Spietz is accused of breaking into the home where Thomas and Jennifer Ayers were found murdered back in March.

Seventeen-year-old Ashlee Martinson faces homicide charges for their deaths.

Investigators believe Spietz stole things like ATVs, a trailer, and a lawn mower from the home in October.

Spietz had his cash bond reduced in Oneida County Court on Monday, and his case will move forward.

He will return to court at the end of this month.


Kaitlyn Howe contributed to this report.

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HURLEY - More people in Iron County will get broadband internet soon.

Hurley will get three new towers for broadband access, thanks to a state Broadband Expansion Grant.

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ANTIGO - Students in Antigo can now eat healthier food when they're at school. The Unified School District of Antigo started two new programs this year to provide its students more nutritious options.

The district started using the Universal Free Breakfast program at North Elementary School and the Middle School.

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RHINELANDER - After a weekend of deals and discounts, businesses now turned the tables. On December 1st, local and big business worked to give back to those in the community for "Giving Tuesday." 

"We try every day to do that because people deserve it and we would not be here without the people who shop here," said Rhinelander GM/Toyota Digital Marketing Coordinator Jo Hettwer. 

We had Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and now Giving Tuesday

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CHICAGO - Some Cook County and Chicago leaders say they're not satisfied with Mayor Rahm Emanuel dismissing Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy.

The mayor announced McCarthy's firing Tuesday amid an outcry about a newly released video showing a white Chicago police officer fatally shooting a black teenager 16 times.

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NORTHWOODS - Many people will decorate their houses with Christmas trees this season. You can cut down one from the national forest.

It costs $5 for a permit to cut down one tree. They can be purchased at any US Forest Service Ranger Station.

This year, fourth graders can get one free cutting permit. Each household is limited to five permits.

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