ST. LOUIS COUNTY, Mo. – Monday marked the first day of class for many area school districts, including the Normandy Schools Collaborative.

Normandy alumni started arriving outside the high school well before the scheduled 7:20 a.m. start of classes. Some alumni held signs of encouragement and cheered as students arrived.

“We want the kids to come in and see all of this support and get excited about today and this entire school year.,” said Nykea Watts Edwards, 1994 graduate of Normandy High School.

The cheers have become a tradition with alumni sending messages of encouragement to students.

“We will be with you along the way, and if you need anything, we are here,” Watts Edwards said.

“The alumni are very, very supportive of the things we do at the school district,” said Ronald L. Roberts, Normandy Schools Collaborative board president. He said the upcoming school year will include a focus on creating a healthy, nurturing environment.

“So students can learn, teachers can teach, and administrators can provide leadership that is necessary for the district,” Roberts said.

Superintendent Michael Triplett traveled to the district’s schools Monday, offering his encouragement. He said creating an environment where students feel like family is a key component of the new school year.

“I want everybody to be consistent and care for students as if they were their own,” Triplett said.

The new school year also marks the return of a dedicated middle school. Last year, middle-school-aged students were part of a K–8 environment.

“Parents are super excited about that,” Triplett said. He said students wanted a middle school as well and he believes it helps give the school’s students a greater sense of belonging.

John Williams, principal of Normandy Middle School at Lucas Crossing, agrees. He also echoes district leaders who say community collaboration is part of helping students excel.

“We want parents to feel that they can come in here and walk our halls and get to know our teachers, get to know our office staff, and administrators,” he said.

District officials add that the safety and security of students are top priorities.