Bridging the gap

Bridging the gap
Normandy schools’ C.A.S.A program helps students in need to stay on track for graduation
By Charlotte Beard
At the beginning of the school year, Normandy High School’s North Hall became the home of the Center for Academic and Social Advancement (C.A.S.A.).
Located in North St. Louis County, the C.A.S.A. program addresses the educational as well as the social and emotional learning aspects of ninth through 12th grade Normandy students who meet the requirements of the program.
Denitria Neil, Coordinator of Alternative Learning for Normandy Schools Collaborative (NSC), explained that the previous outside service that NSC was using for its students was not addressing the social and external concerns that contributed to students not doing well in school.
“We set down as a district and [discussed] what we could do to bridge the gap of what our students are needing,” she said.
C.A.S.A. is geared towards students who have various needs not limited to needing to recover class credits, having problems with school phobias, needing a smaller class setting due to anxiety, or needing one-on-one assistance.
Neil shared that a student is only allowed into the program if they are referred by the school’s counselor. The student would begin the process by completing an application with the counselor which includes approval from the parent. After the counselor makes an assessment that determines a need for C.A.S.A., the application gets passed on to the NSC. This phase involves a review of the student’s transcript, academics and disciplinary history, and an intake interview to ensure the right fit for both the student and C.A.S.A.
The classroom experience for a student in the C.A.S.A. program is smaller than regular Normandy classes which can range from 15 to 20 students in a room. C.A.S.A. classes are kept at 10 students to every one educator to best accommodate the needs of all students.
“We use what is called an upside down or a flexible seating classroom,” shared Neil. “Where we don’t have traditional desks. We have couches…something like what you would see in the student lounge as opposed to an actual classroom. We wanted to make everything as non-traditional as possible.”
C.A.S.A. sessions take place Monday – Friday for students. Each student attends every day, but they are divided up into two different three-hour-and-15-minute sessions and one session for those students who are in the full-day program.
Neil reports that since the inception of C.A.S.A. in August 2017, the program is making a positive impact. With 61 students currently enrolled in the program, four students are set to have all the credits needed to graduate in December 2017. These are students who came to C.A.S.A. because they were deficient in credits.
Neil shared more about the overall mission of NSC beyond C.A.SA. “The collaborative is the district working with external partners to come into the district to help with what we call ‘wraparound’ services. [We call them] ‘wraparound’ because the organizations wrap around the school and wrap around the district to add services in which the district may not ordinarily be able to [provide directly]. For example, mental health services or we have the Affinia Health Center that is embedded in North Hall so that the students will have access to health care now. These are some of the things a teacher wouldn’t be responsible for but as a collaboration we can partner with those external services to [meet needs] in the lives of our students.”
NSC utilizes the Wyman Center, a 501(c)3 not-for-profit and member of the United Way, to oversee and streamline all processes for the wraparound services, not limited to incorporating these services into C.A.S.A. Wyman’s sources share that more than 30 nonprofit and health providers are on-site NSC and are supported by millions of dollars in private funding. NSC is under control of the state.
CUTLINE: Photos courtesy Normandy Schools Collaborative
Cover-Casa1 (From left) Seniors Devin Deshay and Magdalene Ivory work with Social Studies/Missouri Options teacher Crystal Church on an assignment. The C.A.S.A. program is the new education program for Normandy students needing to recover to graduate from high school.
Cover-Casa2 Marlexus Davis, a student in the C.A.S.A. program, speaks with Denitria Neil, coordinator of alternative learning for the Normandy Schools Collaborative.