While 15 students from the Pine-Strawberry School District enjoyed the sunny climes of Cucurpe, Sonora, Mexico, Tuesday, the school board discussed continuing the annual student exchange with its sister city.
Only three members of the five-member board were at Tuesday's meeting. Board member Myndi Brogdon was among the seven adults who accompanied the children to Cucurpe.
Pine-Strawberry School Principal Richard Soikkeli, who left for Cucurpe Tuesday night, told the board that school officials have no intention of discontinuing the 10-year relationship with the tiny mountain town.
School officials were concerned earlier this year that Cucurpe, a village of 850 people, is ill-equipped to handle the school's yearly influx of students.
During January's regular school board meeting, teacher and Hands Across the Border coordinator Scott Lane and Hands Across the Border representative Judy Freeman told the school board that it may be time for Pine-Strawberry, which has a population of 2,500, to team up with a town with a similar population.
But Soikkeli said Monday, "As long as smaller groups go, it will not impact (Cucurpe). We'll go for two years. The bottom line is, nothing has been decided."
Lane told the board in January that the program started with 17 sixth-graders.
"Now we have 35," he said in January. Cucurpe now has 10 sixth-grade students.
When Lane went to Cucurpe last March, the group was met at the town entrance by 30 armed federales.
"This caused me a lot of concern," he said. "It caused me a lot of fear."
The group of about 35 parents who attended the Pine-Strawberry School Board meeting in January had their own concerns. They wanted to have a say in the decision making regarding Cucurpe.
School board member Patti Horton said the parents met a couple of weeks ago and decided to continue the Hands Across the Border program.
And finally, the board tabled a request to add "Sexual Con Games" to its sexual education curriculum for middle-school students.
Horton said the item was tabled to allow the full board time to consider the matter and give parents time to read the proposed curriculum and give their input.
Dr. Chris Tetzloff, the school's contracted psychologist, brought the curriculum before the board last fall. Earlier this week, the Gila County Sheriff's Department charged two Pine-Strawberry middle-school boys with unlawful imprisonment, aggravated assault and sex abuse in connection with an alleged assault on a female classmate on school grounds. A third middle-school boy was charged with sex abuse and assault.
"Roles between boys and girls are a lot different than they were 20 years ago," Horton said.
She explained that the program explores possible scenarios that can constitute sexual manipulation.
Horton said it would be added to the current sexual education program at the school which deals with sexually transmitted diseases, how bodies work, and sexual reproduction.
"There are still a lot of parents who don't discuss this with their kids," she said. "What 'Sexual Con Games' does is go one step farther -- it tells students how to avoid sexual manipulation."
Pine-Strawberry middle-school teacher Pat Cahill will present the new curriculum to the board during its regular board meeting April 13.
"We're asking people to look at the curriculum in our office," Horton said. "I think it's wonderful to look at this before they get to high school."
The board's next meeting, which will focus on district goals, will be March 25. The board may also go into executive session to discuss the principal's evaluation.