Every March for more than a decade, Pine-Strawberry School sixth-graders have traded the piney scent of Rim country air for the pungent aroma of Mexican cooking in the tiny town of Cucurpe. And this year will be no different. Although school officials thought 1999 might be the last year students visited the little mountain town through the Hands Across the Border exchange program, students will make the trip again this year.
Scott Lane, who coordinated the trip last year, told school board members a year ago that the time may have come to choose a town that had a similar population size to Pine and Strawberry. Pine and Strawberry have about 2,500 full- and part-time residents, while Cucurpe has a population of about 850.
But instead of switching towns, the school will limit the number of adults who go on the trip, School Principal Kathe Ketchem said.
"The No. 1 determiner is space in the homes in Mexico," Ketchem said. "You want spaces for the children first, and then the adults. They only have so much space available. Their homes are so much smaller than ours."
And, unlike previous years, not all the children in the sixth grade will be eligible for the trip. Only those who are in the Spanish Club will be eligible and only 16 of those students will be selected to make the trip. Three seventh-grade ambassadors, students who went last year, also will make the trip.
The students will need certified copies of their birth certificates to cross the border.
Margaret Bullard, eighth-grade teacher and coordinator for the Hands Across the Border trip, told Pine Strawberry School Board members Tuesday a small group of parents and teachers will go on a discovery trip Jan. 20 to the town in Sonora, Mexico to make preparations for the students' trip Feb. 28 through March 3.
"A lot of things changed this year -- tourist permits, paperwork," Bullard said.
The board unanimously approved the discovery trip.
In other business Tuesday, the Pine Strawberry School Board voted to re-elect board president Patti Horton and chose Lynn Sommars as media reporter and Myndi Brogdon as clerk of the board.
The school board members also voted to continue their regular meetings on the second Tuesday of every month, but changed the time from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.
Brogdon also was chosen to represent the board as Legislative network contact person.
Principal Kathe Ketchem told the board that the Pine Strawberry School District received $57,660 from the state's Credit for Kids Program. The program allows taxpayers to allocate up to $200 of their tax payments to schools for extracurricular activities. Ketchem said the 1999 Credit for Kids allocation was $4,546 more than the district received last year.
Ketchem said there are two upcoming tests for students, the Stanford 9, which will be given April 10-14, and the AIMS test, March 27-31.
"We're working on reading and writing and math," she said. "The 4th grade is finished with math and has moved on to reading and writing assessments. If they can pass the AIMS test, they can pass the Stanford 9."
Ketchem said a high school curriculum meeting will take place between Payson High School officials and elementary and middle school officials in the area. The Jan. 21 meeting will involve a discussion about what school administrators and teachers are doing assessing their classes and preparing students for the upcoming AIMS tests.
"We're working toward the same goals," she said.
In her report to the board, Ketchem also said that a Students Against Destructive Decisions group with about 30 members had been started at Pine Strawberry School. She said the group is open to sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade students.
Ketchem told the board that 55 percent of the eighth-grade students at the school are either on the Honor Roll or on the Principal's List. Three DARE students completed the drug awareness program Monday at the school and Alicia Durnham was recognized as the school's DARE Student of the Year.