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PROBE: May 10, 2001

May 10, 2001

QUESTION: I have been getting the run-around at McCabe Union Elementary School when I ask why the school lets so many kids from outside the district attend McCabe.

They have so many kids that only the first and second grades have reduced class sizes to 20 students. Other schools reduced class size in the third grade as well.

My children go to McCabe because we live in the district. Who can tell me why school officials allow so many students who live outside the district to attend our school? — Parent, rural El Centro

It's the kids from outside the district who help pay the bills so rural McCabe, which is south of El Centro, can exist.

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That's why McCabe kept the door open to pupils from other districts.

If McCabe had six or seven more third-graders, it could add another third-grade classroom to bring the class size down to 20 pupils, said Bill Sechrist, a McCabe school board member.

Even with a state subsidy, a school can't afford a class with 12 students, Sechrist said.

Out-of-district kids are harder to get as both the El Centro and Imperial school districts resist transfer agreements. Each child is worth thousands of dollars in state money.

El Centro opened two new elementary schools and Imperial one in recent years.

As a result, McCabe's enrollment is down to 501 students this year. It was 550 a couple years ago.

QUESTION: Last year when my eucalyptus tree became infected with lerps, the county Agricultural Commissioner's Office said it was getting some lerp-eating wasps. I have never seen any of the wasps. What happened? What are we supposed to do? — Tree Owner, Holtville

The state didn't send any wasps last year and it doesn't look like it will send any this year, said county Deputy Agricultural Commissioner Miguel Monroy.

The best you can do is hope for a blistering Imperial County heat wave to fry the pests. That should arrive any day now.

Lerps, also known as red gum lerp psyllid, are destroying eucalyptus trees all over California. Up north it doesn't get hot enough to kill them, so the pesky psyllids are scarfing up all the trees.

OUT OF THE PAST — We've all been living in the past lately as we observe our 100th birthday at the newspaper. Merry Baxter Harris triggered memories with her piece Monday on her days as this newspaper's women's editor.

She reminded us of people we hadn't thought of in years: Richard Lucy, Frank Aborn and a former managing editor, Ben Johnston.

So who should pop in Tuesday but Ben Johnston.

"You probably don't know me," he said. With Merry's story fresh in our mind, we said, "Of course, I know you, you're Ben Johnston!"

That pleased Ben but he was more pleased with Merry's column.

Johnston said he's coming back, so Merry, leave your phone number on our voice mail. If we see Johnston, we'll pass it on to him so he can give you a call.

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