Members of Lodi High School's Apple Academy once again flocked to Room 93 on Monday to grieve the death of a fellow student once a part of this close-knit program.
Sara Marie Smith, a passenger in a 2001 Honda SUV, was killed over the weekend in a solo-vehicle accident. She graduated from Lodi High and the Apple program in May.
"I've lost count of how many that makes," Principal Bill Atterberry said, of the program's high number of deaths in recent years.
The Apple Academy focuses on education-based careers, and its students usually become close friends because they attend most of their classes together. It is taught by co-advisers Jeff Palmquist and Tammy Boschee, who have been known to joke that they are the program's parents.
On Monday, school counselors were working with Boschee to reach out to all of the students in need, according to Atterberry. Many students remained in the classroom throughout the day crying and comforting one another over the loss of Smith.
The scene has been played out close to half a dozen times in the last four years.
Stephanie Jones died earlier this year from injuries suffered in a vehicle
accident. Jaclyn Terry was killed in an accident in 2005. Both were part of the Apple program.
Logan Vierra, killed in an accident the same year, had just interviewed for the program and was set to start that fall, while Diego Chavira had been enrolled in the program for years. He was shot in North Stockton earlier this year.
All of their pictures are hanging on a classroom bulletin board alongside Boschee's desk. She still has the student body card of Terry, who was her teacher's assistant.
Neither Boschee nor Palmquist could be reached Monday.
Atterberry, who was personally acquainted with Smith, said she was a "delightful student" who always made a point of saying hello to him.
"I'm still numb from the news of her death. We've lost so many over the years. Getting to know our students is one of the marvelous blessings of being in education, but it has a serious downside - when one dies it's more than just another news story. It takes a personal toll," he said.
"My thoughts and prayers go out to her family and many, many friends."
This story was updated at 12:10 p.m. Sept. 1, 2009, to correct the date of Stephanie Jones' accident.