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Ajo Copper News
Ajo, Arizona
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July 21, 2020     Ajo Copper News
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July 21, 2020
 

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Tuesday, July 21, 2020 Ajo, Pima County, Arizona YOUR HOMETOWN NEWSPAPER SINCE 1916 Volume 96, Number 47 ©2020 School holding virtual town hall on the start of fall classes Applicants sought for vacant seat on school board With the recent death of longtime Ajo school board member Rose Cameron, her seat is now vacant. With elections approaching, there was a possibility the seat, which expires this year, would be left vacant un- til after the elections. However, current board members felt that hav- ing only four members during this tumultuous time in education could lead to tie votes and urged Pima County School Superintendent Dustin Williams to make an interim appointment. He is seeking applicants to complete that term. There are five candidates running for three seats on the board, includ- ing that left vacant by Cameron’s death, and only one, Windy Robertson, is an incumbent. None of the other four – Eric Krznarich, Dan Morales, Lonnie Guthrie, and Paula Ramirez – can be named to fill the empty seat while running for election. That means the person appointed will serve only through December 31 of this year. Applications from those interested in serving are due by Monday, July 27, at 5 p.m. For information about requirements and how to apply, see the ad on page 3 of this issue or visit schools.pima.gov. For further information, contact Matt Stamp at the Pima County School Superintendent’s Office at 520-724-8454 or by email matthew. stamp@pima.gov. Quitobaquito flow &water level fell further A researcher held a Sonoyta mud turtle hatchling. The Quitobaquito pond, where water levels are dropping, is the only place in the US where this species of turtle naturally lives. (NPS photo) According to monitoring devic- es at Quitobaquito, the flow rate of the springs that feed the pond has fallen by over 30% since March from 10.65 gallons per minute to just 7.33. The level of water in the pond has also dropped. The changes have raised con- cerns among conservationists and community members about the cause of the drop and what can be done about it. Quitobaquito is located near the US/Mexico border in the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument and is managed by the National Park Service. The pumping of millions of gallons of groundwater for the border wall project has been criticized as a threat to the pond by conservation groups like the Sierra Club. Frank Torres, the NPS chief of interpretation & visi- tor services at the monument, said last week that diminishing water in the Quitobaquito spring has a long history. “Seasonally, the water fluctu- ates naturally and is dependent on rainfall and spring flow,” he said. “Long-term trends, begin- ning in the 1970s, have shown a steady decline in the spring flow that leads into the pond. Increased temperatures and low humidity also lead to increased evaporation from the pond and evapotranspira- tion from nearby vegetation.” He said the NPS measured the spring flowing at around 30 gal- lons per minute in the 1990s, add- ing that has reduced to around 9 today. Construction of the wall also requires heavy traffic on a re- cently widened dirt road just 200 feet from the pond. Contractors have started digging trenches for the installation of an electric grid to power lights on the wall, rais- ing concern over whether the con- struction work is damaging the ponds structure and ability to hold the reduced water it does get. “Vibrations may pose a pos- sible effect,” he said. “But this is inconclusive.” He added, how- ever, “In anticipation of this pos- sibility, the NPS requested slower speed limits and use of water to keep dust from blowing into the pond and these requests have been implemented.” He said that the construction company, Southwest Valley Constructors, have com- plied with the requests, reduc- ing speed through the area to 10 mph, and wetting the road near the pond. “Quitobaquito pond has a clay liner and earthen embankment that creates the pond, which re- quire continuous upkeep,” said Torres. “The last time the NPS did any major work to the pond and containment system was in 1962.” Since around 2006, the pond suffered several leaks that park staff continue to address. Many kinds of damage to the clay liner can cause leaks. “Leaks are caused by vegetation, rotting roots, and small structural failures that all contribute to water loss,” said Torres. He said NPS staff have no- ticed an area of the earthen berm that holds water in the pond “that is showing signs of subsidence, which is an indication water may be moving through that area. NPS will be attempting to prevent wa- ter loss in that targeted area to test whether or not leaks are occurring by placing sand bags and pond liner to seal the area and then use more clay to provide a better seal if needed.” The pond and springs that feed it are home to the endan- gered Quitobaquito pupfish (Cyprinodoneremus), and the Sonoyta mud turtle (Kinosternon sonoriense longifemorale). The springs have supported human The Ajo Unified School District is holding a virtual town hall on Facebook Live to provide information and answer questions about how school will start next month. The session will be held on Facebook Live this Wednesday, July 22, at 4 p.m. through their page. Information may be on their Facebook page and at their web- site www.ajoschools.org. The district invites questions to be submitted by email either to an- gelina@ajoschools.org or to led- lund@ajoschools.org by Tuesday morning. “We will not be having a physi- cal attendance option for the town hall,” said Principal Leonard Edlund, “because we are trying to respect the no physical atten- dance at schools direction of the Governor. We will make every at- tempt to respond to questions that are submitted during the session, so long as they apply as general questions and are not individual based (those will be responded to directly after the meeting).” Though the state could still order changes due to the pan- demic, the current Ajo plan calls for school to start with distance learning on August 10 with two- day a week in-person classes starting August 24. Students will be assigned to Monday-Thursday classes or Tuesday-Friday classes. Parents may also opt for complete distance learning. Wednesdays will be used for additional tutoring for students and teacher training. Frequently Asked Questions Answers to some frequently asked questions are found on the school’s website: Do we have a choice on how our students attend school this year? Yes. You may choose ei- ther the A/B schedule (2 days a week on campus and 3 days on- line at home) or a 100% Distance Learning (online at home - with additional teacher support avail- able each Wednesday). Is there a set curriculum for online learning this year? Yes. Our students will be using the Edgenuity curriculum which will provide full courses that are fully aligned to meet Arizona state stan- dards. Can students change from 100% online to A/B schedule or vice versa? Yes. Families will be able to change their choice each quarter, with a minimum of 1 week notice to the school office. What if we don’t have enough computers for our students to do online schooling? The school can provide the family with the loan of computers for students to use during the school year (for school purposes only). Will teachers be available to work with our students? Yes. While we at least start with all students online - Teachers will be available for daily ZOOM ses- sions and conversations during the scheduled class time slot to answer questions and provide sup- port. Once our A/B option starts, teachers will be available during their scheduled planning period to return emails to off-campus stu- dents and will also be available on Wednesday to work with students who need additional support or have chosen the 100% distance learning option. Will Special Services students continue to receive support? Yes. The Special Education staff will work with each General Education teacher to modify the curricu- lum/ courses to meet the IEP (Individualized Educational Plan) requirements for each student. We will continue to offer the therapies through contracted providers. Will students be required to wear masks? Multi-part Answer: Bus: Yes. Students will be re- quired to wear masks on the bus. On Campus: If students are within 6 feet of another person, they will be required to wear a mask. Will there be Health Screenings every day? Yes. Parents will fol- low the health screening proto- cols at home. Bus drivers will also take students tempera- ture prior to boarding the bus. Teachers will also take each stu- dents temperature before they enter the classroom every morn- ing. (Temperature must be below 100.4°F.) If we are awaiting a Covid-19 test result, do we need to stay home? Yes. Until the test result re- turns as Negative. If a person tests positive, how long do they need to stay quaran- tined? Until they have received clearance from a medical profes- sional that they are ready to return. If a teacher or student tests positive will the school campus close? At least part of the school would be required to close for a period of 2-5 days. Depending on exposure, it may be limited to one classroom or it could include the full campus. Do we have all the answers? No. As you can imagine, this is a fluid plan that continues to change almost daily. However, we want to provide options to our commu- nity, while attempting to maintain safety for our students, staff, and their extended families. INSIDE: Election information pages 4 & 6 and wildlife migration and habi- tation for thousands of years. To prevent the loss of that habitat, in- tervention may be needed. Torres said the NPS is watch- ing the situation at the pond and exploring future restorative ef- forts. “Our best course of action is to carefully monitor and only re- spond as needed to sustain these species while performing any nec- essary repairs and to continue to plan and prepare for a future long- term restoration.” He said, “These species can tolerate a substantial amount of change throughout the year and we allow the system to experience these changes, similar to what they experience in their more natural habitat within the Rio Sonoyta drainage. Fish and turtles can withstand great fluctua- tions in water levels, temperature, salinity, and turbidity associated with storm events. If water levels drop low enough to potentially cause harm to wildlife, we can trap and move them to more stable reaches of the system upstream of the pond.”