Craig Middle School secretary Beth Gilchrist sits closest to the school's juice machines and was without an alibi, making her the prime suspect for stealing juice.
But, she was able to sweet talk her way past 12- and 13-year-old investigators eager to place the blame elsewhere.
Despite Gilchrist's best attempts to draw their attention to the fact that her long, dark hair was a perfect match to the hair found in the vending machine, they still looked elsewhere for the culprit.
Gilchrist has twice been the criminal in the middle school's crime scene investigation class, an extra course offered to students who aren't interested or don't need extra study time and aren't enrolled in band or choir.
The shortened class period is an "extension" class, offered as part of the school district's "failure is not an option" philosophy. It is one a committee will evaluate this year to determine whether it's the best use of time.
The district began offering extensions three years ago as a partial solution to the question: "What do we do when students just aren't getting it?"
"To meet students' needs, we're improving the model," Superintendent Pete Berg--mann said.
Extensions create scheduled time for students who need extra help.
For those who don't, the time is used to catch up on homework or study a new subject.
Craig Middle School extension topics have included German, journalism and model rockets. Topics vary among the 4 1/2 week courses, depending on how many students sign up.
Study hall is becoming more popular, Gilchrist said.
"Study hall is actually quite popular," she said. "There have been students who dropped their extension to go back to study hall."
Teacher Brynna Vogt said that as students participate in more extracurricular activities, the more time they need during the day to get homework done.
"So many kids have after-school activities that when they get home, they don't have much time," she said.
This year, more of Vogt's students opted to take study hall, and she said there's a noticeable difference in the number of students who turn their homework in and the quality of the work.
That may be something school officials consider as they evaluate the best ways to use the time they have with students, Vogt said.
Students lose their chance at extensions when they enter high school. Extension time becomes mentoring time for freshman, so they can learn study skills and about their new school.
Extensions again become an option for sophomores. Classes included filmmaking, "Woods for Scaredy Cats," metal art, virtual travel, cardiopulmonary resuscitation and others.
Juniors and seniors can choose an elective, but most opt to add 35 minutes to their lunch breaks.
Christina M. Currie can be reached at 824-7031, ext. 210, or email@example.com.