Literacy, outreach part of new PASS class at Chana High School

Positive Alternatives to School Suspension class keeps suspended students at school, learning life lessons
By: Tricia Caspers, Columnist
-A +A

Alexis Jenkins is on a literacy mission. The new instructional assistant in the PASS (Positive Alternatives to School Suspension) class at Chana High, a continuation school, is asking for magazine donations for her students.

“There’s a big push right now for literacy,” Jenkins said. “Not just the reading but comprehension, learning vocabulary words and how to apply what you read to daily life.”

Applying lessons to daily life is a big part of what happens in the PASS class, which keeps suspended students in school – working on class lessons as well as the personal issues that may have sent them to the continuation school and the PASS class – instead of being sent home, according to Nicole Laubach, the school’s social worker.

School administration reached out to the parents to ask how to improve the school, and the PASS class was the result, she said.

“Parents were asking, ‘Why are you sending (students) home?’” said Outreach Liaison, Karen Wilson. “It was difficult for the parents who were often working.”

That policy changed last year with the help of funding from LCAP (Local Control Accountability Plan), a state-wide transparency and budgeting process for school districts, according to Chana’s Principal, Stan Parker.

Chana accepts students from Colfax, Foresthill and Placer High Schools who are behind on credits or have been suspended for inappropriate or illegal behavior, Parker said.

“Many of these students struggle with anxiety, depression and (Attention Deficit Hyper Activity Disorder),” Laubach said. “It’s difficult for them to be in a class room with 40 other students and pay attention and be successful. The lower class size (at Chana) really helps.”

Each day as many as five of the school’s 115 students are referred to PASS for behavior issues. That’s where Wilson meets with them and offers information that addresses each student’s need and refers them other services, including meeting with Laubach, if necessary.

“I look at what else is getting in the way of their education,” Wilson said. “They might need to go to the dentist or they might be hungry . . . There are often extenuating reasons why they’re behind.”

Students stay in the PASS class for no more than three days, Parker said, and sometimes they are released early for good behavior.

“The focus isn’t punitive,” Laubach said. “They’ll be more successful completing the work they’re given, and they’ll feel better about themselves.”

Once they’ve finished class work and spent time on self-improvement, Jenkins and her co-teachers hope a variety of magazines will open doors to new worlds for the students.

“Chapter books (can) seem pretty daunting,” Jenkins said. “With smaller articles (students) know they’ll get to the end, and maybe they’ll learn something.”

Some of the teachers are offering students extra credit for writing responses to magazine articles, she said.

“We hope they find something that piques their interest, and they’ll continue reading from there,” Jenkins said. “Maybe they’ll go from ‘People,’ to ‘Pride and Prejudice.’ That would be a dream.”


Tricia Caspers-Ross can be reached at