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CG school bus drivers practice for real life emergencies
 Suzanne Adams  / 

CASA GRANDE — Casa Grande Elementary School District bus drivers got to experience a face full of smoke Wednesday morning.

The district partnered with the Casa Grande Fire Department to run a fire safety clinic that included three practice stations that allowed bus drivers to better prepare for a fire or medical emergency on their bus using simulations involving real smoke and fire extinguishers.

One of the most dramatic practice stations had bus drivers sit inside one of the district’s buses while firefighters filled the vehicle with smoke. The drivers then had to properly evacuate the bus.

“It just shows just how rapidly a school bus can fill with smoke and the lack of visibility once a bus is filled with smoke,” said district Director of Transportation Darla Johnson. She pointed out that it didn’t take long before the seats at the back of the bus were obscured with smoke. “And that’s with adults sitting in those seats.”

Casa Grande Fire Marshal Michael Wobser was also providing tips to drivers about how they could make sure that all of their students made it off the bus safely in a fire.

Drivers should get the students off the bus as quickly, but also as safely, as possible, he said. If it takes an extra few seconds to make sure that all of the students get off safely without getting hurt, then so be it.

The department also brought a special trailer with a gas-fed flame that the bus drivers could practice putting out by using a real fire extinguisher. The fire extinguishers were old models that were donated to the cause by Walmart Distribution Center and Tri-Valley Fire Equipment.

Fire extinguishers can be intimidating, Johnson said. A person may pass one on a daily basis but never really think about how to use one in an emergency.

CG School Bus Safety Training 3/12/20

The drivers also got a lesson in how to properly use an automatic external defibrillator and do CPR.

Johnson said drills like this that simulate real life experiences are much more effective at helping drivers prepare for emergencies and she hopes to do more of them in the future.

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Preliminary report shows opening old CG open pit mine profitable
 Suzanne Adams  / 

CASA GRANDE — One of two companies competing to reopen the old Sacaton Mine near Casa Grande is inching closer to success while the other has faced a minor setback.

Elim Mining Incorporated released its preliminary economic assessment to investors on Tuesday. The assessment is a preliminary report to show if it is financially feasible to reopen the mine.

The assessment states that the stockpile of rock that had a grade of copper that was too low to make it profitable to extract the last time the mine was open in the 1980s has enough ore in it to fund at least eight years of operations using today’s mining processes.

The report estimates that Elim will need at least $71.4 million in initial capital costs to reopen the mine, which it has renamed Cactus Mine, and that the stockpile should produce around 182.4 million pounds of copper with an average annual cash flow of about $31 million.

Ramm Power Group, which would like to use the mine to build a pumped storage hydro power facility to store and generate renewable energy, announced Wednesday that it plans to resubmit its application for its power plant to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

Ramm’s notice of intent and pre-application document for its power plant was denied by FERC for its traditional licensing process on March 4 because it was incomplete. The applications were missing information such as a current environmental assessment of the site, maps showing the project boundaries and the location of facilities, a detailed description of the facilities and project operations and a summary of contacts with local governments, tribes and organizations about the project, according to documents from the FERC.

“The company plans to immediately address these deficiencies listed in the FERC response and re-file,” Ramm Power stated in a press release.

The company claims that its preliminary FERC permit for the project at the mine remains in effect and is valid through July 19, 2021.

Ramm has claimed that the preliminary permit gives it the right to claim the old Asarco mine property off Maricopa-Casa Grande Highway through eminent domain. Elim Mining disputes that claim.

CG school districts putting plans in place in case of closure
 Suzanne Adams  / 

CASA GRANDE — Casa Grande schools are making plans just in case the call comes to close a school or an entire district due to the COVID-19 coronavirus.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, children do not appear to be at a higher risk for contracting the virus than adults. However, schools across the country have been closed in order to prevent the spread of the virus, including all schools in Ohio, West Virginia, Maryland, New Mexico, Oregon and the District of Columbia. Some schools in the Phoenix area are also planning to close on Monday, even though Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey has not called for school closures.

In Casa Grande, Legacy Traditional Schools has posted information to its website stating that it is open but has canceled all events until April 10 including field trips, sporting events, conferences, after-school clubs, music performances and staff events. The school is also prohibiting all visitors and volunteers from its campus through April 10. Spring break camps and intersession tutoring will continue, according to Legacy’s website.

Students will be escorted to the bathroom to wash their hands before going to lunch and all salad bar items will be individually packaged. The school is also disinfecting all surfaces including computers and headphones between uses.

Mission Heights High School is also open.

Both Casa Grande Elementary School District and Casa Grande Union High School District said they are getting information daily from the Pinal County Public Health Department, Arizona Department of Health Services and Arizona Department of Education. The districts have not been asked to close any schools by any of the departments, but they are preparing just in case the state or county calls for a closure.

Both districts stated they will resume school, as usual, after next week’s spring break. However, all Casa Grande Elementary School field trips, athletic travel and school-wide events are canceled indefinitely. Athletic practices will continue so students can continue to compete when sporting events resume.

Casa Grande Union High School District athletic practice and competitions will continue. However, all “unnecessary” school field trips and travel will be canceled.

Both districts said they plan to use next week’s spring break to fine-tune the plans they are putting into place should the state or local public health departments call for their schools to be closed.

If the call to close does come, CGESD will notify parents through a variety of channels, including social media, SchoolMessenger and the district’s website (www.cgesd.org.), said district Communications and Marketing Specialist Michael Cruz.

The CGUHS District also plans to notify parents in a similar way through its email and phone notifications, app, social media and its website, www.cguhsd.org. Families are also encouraged to contact principals or the district if they have any questions.

Teachers from both districts have been sharing information with students about staying healthy and preventing the spread of germs.

The districts are also putting a plan in place for students who use the district’s free and reduced meal program if school is suspended.

At the elementary school district, Cruz said, “The program will likely mirror our summer meal program, where we will have both fixed locations and mobile units out in the community to provide breakfast and lunch to students.”

The districts are also working on how to continue educating students if the schools close. The CGUHSD has mobile internet hotspots that students who don’t have internet access at home can check out and take home.

At CGESD, Cruz said. “We have many families that do not have access to the internet. At this time, we are working on alternative learning plans that will meet the needs of all students.”

Both districts urge parents to continue to send their children to school as long as the schools are open.

“However, if a parent/guardian elects to keep their child home as a precautionary measure, we will support their decision,” Cruz said.

Any student in either district who is kept home by a parent during the coronavirus situation will be excused up to 10 school days at a time. Students who are sick with a cold, flu, respiratory symptoms or a fever must stay home until they are free of the illness.

The districts also recommend that any family with a student who has an underlying condition that could place them at a higher risk of catching an illness should keep them at home and may keep any healthy siblings at home as well.

Also anyone who had traveled or plans to travel to a high-risk country or another area of the U.S. where the coronavirus is spreading over spring break should report the information to their school and stay home.

Should a student, staff or teacher come down with the virus the districts will work with the Arizona Department of Health Services and follow the department’s protocols for notifying families of those who may have come in contact with the person.

The districts are also using disinfectants similar to the ones used in hospitals to make sure that surfaces in the schools are cleaned on a frequent basis.