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Casa Grande Elementary School District

CASA GRANDE — As area elementary students transition to a temporary learn-from-home curriculum, district school officials are planning an educational toy drive to meet their recreational needs.

“We have tallied up data after making calls to all families last week and found that an estimated 1,600 students in our district do not have access to a device or internet connection,” said Michael Cruz, communications and marketing specialist for the Casa Grande Elementary School District. “Moreover, many of these children do not have access to supplemental learning materials and fun educational activities.”

Cruz and other school officials are working to mobilize nonprofit organizations and individuals to start a drive that would collect educational toys and items to keep kids busy and engaged.

With activities and events canceled, Cruz said he worries about area students staying busy, especially if they lack basic educational items that engage their minds.

Among the items he would like to collect and distribute to children in need are:

  • arts and crafts supplies
  • playing cards

age-appropriate board games

  • activity books
  • colored pencils and crayons
  • books

“We’re not talking about Mr. Potato Head or the type of toys we collect at Christmas,” Cruz said. “These are toys that keep kids productive, engaged and learning.”

Cruz began this week mobilizing volunteers and nonprofits to put an educational toy drive in place.

“We will be reaching out to the community to ask for their help,” Cruz said. “We’re still working on the process and figuring out how people can help.”

Officials hope to collect items in a way that minimizes the risk of coronavirus exposure to the public.

“We don’t want to encourage people to go out to the store and start buying things because people should be staying home as much as possible right now,” he said.

Eventually, he hopes to establish a method for people to donate online to the cause.

Ross Scanio, commandant of the Marine Corps League’s M901 Detachment, said his group of military veterans and community volunteers is ready to help.

The M901 organization frequently conducts fundraisers and community events. Each year, the organization runs a Toys for Tots drive during the Christmas season. Last year, the group’s toy drive collected 6,700 toys, which it delivered to 3,800 kids in Pinal County.

“We have the playbook in place for organizing a collection drive like this,” Scanio said. “We’re looking forward to mobilizing our resources and helping out.”

Once items are collected, Cruz said packets of educational toys would be distributed to children in need when parents pick up their students’ weekly educational packet.

CGESD began distance learning this week. Students with an internet connection and computer are able to access the curriculum online. Those without internet pick up a packet Mondays that includes school work for the week.

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Melissa St. Aude is the Arts & Entertainment editor at PinalCentral. She can be reached at mstaude@pinalcentral.com.

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