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Enrollment numbers drop in Toltec School District
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ARIZONA CITY — A decline in student enrollment numbers in the Toltec School District will impact the budget.

Student enrollment for the first 10 days of school was 514 students at Arizona City Elementary School and 301 in Toltec Elementary School.

“That’s considerably lower than our enrollment before the pandemic,” district Superintendent Denise Rogers told the district Governing Board on Aug. 9. “This is an area of concern since it can drastically impact our budget negatively.”

The board on Aug. 9 approved its proposed $5.9 million 2021-22 budget with some changes that reflect the lower enrollment numbers. The original budget was written with an anticipated student enrollment of 940. That number was changed on the current budget to reflect a student attendance number of 815 students.

The district has a carryover amount of $323,000 from the 2021 fiscal year.

“Currently, our total expended and encumbered monies are at $6,275,419,” district Director of Finance Tim McCain told the board. “This is in excess of the amount that we will have available in the budget revision. We will be dependent upon (federal) ESSER funding to meet our expenses, which will exceed the confines of our budget for this school year.”

In other business, the board approved an updated contract for the cell tower at Toltec Elementary School, agreeing to a $185,000 buyout of the contract in lieu of future rents. The tower will remain on the school.

The board also agreed to add a full-time position for a paraprofessional tasked with helping the one teacher in charge of the district’s online instruction program. The position will be funded through an ESSER grant.

“We have assigned one teacher to the task of teaching all students who are enrolled in teacher-led online instruction,” Rogers said. “Even though the number of students in this instructional option is not unusually high at this time, the numerous grade levels require the teacher to engage in hours of instructional planning.”

The paraprofessional will provide assistance to the teacher.

“As the numbers of positive (COVID) cases increase within our community, we are seeing an increase in the number of families who are choosing this instructional option,” Rogers said. “The needs are changing as we get this school year started, as it has throughout this pandemic. If necessary, we will reassign teachers appropriately to meet the needs of our students as we endeavor to cover classes both in-person and online.”

The school district on Aug. 4 responded to rumors in the community about a purported outbreak at the schools by issuing a letter to parents advising that the district “is not in the midst of an outbreak.”

However, students in some classes at both Toltec Elementary School and Arizona City Elementary School were put under a 14-day stay-at-home quarantine earlier in the month after COVID-19 positive cases were reported within the homes of some students.

“Being exposed to the virus while at school is not the case for any of the three students who tested positive for the virus,” the letter said.

As part of the district’s reopening plan, students have their temperatures checked before boarding the school bus each morning. Those with a higher-than-normal temperature are sent home.

The board on Aug. 9 tentatively approved a plan to send two district employees to PowerSchool training in February in Florida at a total anticipated cost of $8,725. The approval is conditional on the board reviewing the training schedule at a later meeting.

The board also recognized Toltec Elementary School teacher Lora Tapia as the district’s teacher of the year.

Arizona City welcomes new coffee shop
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ARIZONA CITY -- TumbleBeans in Arizona City is a new coffee shop located in the old Tumbleweed Market at 13640 S. Sunland Gin Road. The shop just recently had its grand opening and is quickly becoming a hit for the Arizona City community.

The coffee shop has branched out into not just serving drinks but also holding different events like live music as well as a car show.

Brian Ernst is part owner of the shop. He says that it has been a great thing to see the people of Arizona City enjoy the new addition to their community.

“Every day we have been slowly increasing with the number of people coming out,” Ernst said. “It took us about three or four months to renovate this place, and we have been in business for about a week now and have been doing really well.”

A resident of Arizona City for some time now, Ernst believes that the coffee shop is a way to help create community engagement.

“This coffee shop has really brought the community together. We get busy in the mornings, and are still busy throughout the day,” Ernst said. “It is really nice to just see the whole community come out and see some people I haven’t seen in a while, so it’s a good thing.”

Not only does Ernst believe the shop can be a way to bring the community together, he also sees it as a tool for the local economy of Arizona City.

“We have hired about 10 people here, so we are providing jobs, and we try to give back to the community by supporting our firefighters and first responders,” Ernst said. “We do what we do out here to try and galvanize the community. The whole reason for putting all of this together was to support the community, and it has been beyond my expectations so far.”

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Leach: Census 'way off' in Pinal
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ARIZONA CITY — State Sen. Vince Leach says the recent census was “way off” for Pinal County.

Leach, R-Saddlebrooke, represents Legislative District 11, which includes Maricopa, Arizona City and parts of Casa Grande and Eloy. During the August Arizona City Chamber of Commerce luncheon last week at Heaven’s View Baptist Church, Leach paid the community a visit and answered questions.

One of the topics the Republican senator spoke about was the latest census numbers.

“From all indications, it looks like the census numbers were way off, not only in Pinal (County) but also in Yuma (County),” Leach stated. “We were all expecting to get enough population increase to get one more congressman. Everything points to we should have one more congressional seat, and we were shocked when we didn’t get it.”

Leach also shared his thoughts on the plans to build Interstate 11 to connect the Phoenix area to Las Vegas.

“My position is we already have a road bed made, it’s called I-10; the road bed is already there. We cannot take care of the roads that we already have,” Leach said. “We can’t build the third lane (on I-10), we can’t fix potholes, there’s a lot of things that we cannot do. We have to make it work.”

Finally, Leach discussed the Arizona review of the 2020 election results.

“I will tell you this, I am sure that there were laws, rules, regulations and procedures that were not followed,” Leach said. “We, the Legislature, I think have not done our job, and now we are paying the price. And I think coming out of this, we will see where we have to tighten up regulations and rules. (The audit) took considerably longer than anticipated, but the goal was to not do it fast, it was to do it right.”