Pine-Strawberry Elementary School

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Enrollment is declining at the Pine-Strawberry Elementary School, so the progress made in the last year has been a matter of quality over quantity.

A tutorial program was started for students in grades 4-8, building on the existing Achievement Program providing tutoring opportunities for grades 1-3, Superintendent Kathe Ketchem said.

Funds for the new program came from the Federal Rural Education Achievement program, she said.

As with other Rim schools, Pine-Strawberry has an Accelerated Reading program, which has been improved with fully networking the school with computers. The whole school went online at the end of last year, she said.

Ketchem said the students are doing well on the state and national tests. She said they are beginning to move into the higher score groups. Advancements have occurred outside the classroom as well, Ketchem said.

The fifth-grade class, working with the Kiwanis club, has put in low-water, ground cover plants on the school grounds and elsewhere around the community.

The students participate in a CHAMPPS program (the Champs Have and Model Positive Peer Skills program), a leadership and character building project.

The future holds some tough decisions and sacrifices, Ketchem said. With a decline in enrollment, and an indication that the district will not get any significant assistance from the state, staff will have to be cut. There also is an increase expected in insurance costs.

Last year, eight positions were eliminated and this year the district is looking at cutting at least five more, Ketchem said. Most likely those cuts will be: two classroom teachers, two aides, one cafeteria worker or a bus driver, plus three employees will have hours cut, she said.

The school is the largest employer in the Pine-Strawberry area, so the cuts will have a far-reaching impact. Ketchem said the student population is in decline because people can no longer afford to live in the Pine area.

But of those who have remained, Ketchem said, "The kids are doing well. The parents are supportive. Our achievement programs will continue ... We still have a great place here at the school."

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