Wednesday, 18 October 2017 15:42

FAFSA: Get Help Paying for College

Utahns are notorious for missing out on free federal college aid because they don't apply, or complete the FAFSA, which stands for Free Application for Federal Student Aid. 
At the start of 2016, Utah was ranked 50 for its FAFSA-completion rate.

Due, however, to a statewide effort to walk high school seniors through the application process, Utah's completion rate jumped 39 percent last year, the second largest gain in the country. Leading the way was Jordan High, which now boasts the second highest completion rate in Utah, says Tori Gillett, CSD's School Counseling Program Specialist. 

In Canyons District, all high school seniors are encouraged to complete a FAFSA along with at least one college application — and with $10,000 in financial aid from the Canyons Education Foundation, they're able to afford the college application fees. Last year, 2,328 seniors submitted college applications as part of Utah College Application Week. Of those, 85 percent said the experience made them more interested in going to college. 

Following are the dates and times for FAFSA completion fairs at a school near you. Students are welcome to attend whichever fair is most convenient for them.

Nov. 9, Jordan High, 6–8 p.m.

Nov. 9, Hillcrest High, 4–7 p.m.
Nov. 14, Corner Canyon High, 6–9 p.m. 
Nov. 16, Alta High, 5:30–8:30 p.m.
Nov. 16, Diamond Ridge High, 6-8 p.m. 

By completing the FAFSA, students become eligible for scholarships awarded by individual colleges and:

Pell Grants: A Pell Grant is money the government provides for students who need it to pay for college. Grants, unlike loans, do not have to be repaid. Eligible students receive a specified amount each year under this program. 

Work Study: The federal government gives money to colleges and universities to hire students to work on campus. This allows students to have a job while they are attending school.
Loans: These loans are subsidized by the government and have better repayment terms than loans from banks for other financial institutions.

Information about FAFSA, including the online application, can be accessed at www.fafsa.gov.
There's a well-known trick to remembering the difference between the words "principle" and "principal." A principle is an idea you stand by, but a principal is a person who stands by you. To remember the difference, keep this in mind: the principal is your pal.

In honor of Utah School Principals this week from Oct. 16-20, Canyons District is highlighting some of its amazing principals who love their students, inspire their teachers and keep their schools running.

Gone are the days of the notoriously dreaded principal's office - in today's world, principals are working to support the community, inspire teachers, and implement positive behavior interventions for struggling students. They are at extracurricular activities, they're brainstorming in the middle of the night, and they're up bright and early the next day to greet students with a smile. These days, getting called to the principal's office is usually a good thing.

"I see my office as a teaching station, just like a classroom," says Midvalley Principal Tamra Baker. "It's an opportunity for us to teach parents, to help them understand their child developmentally, but it's also a place to celebrate kids' successes. They make good choices and you celebrate those and you reteach and reteach and reteach."

For Baker, being a principal means being in the hallways, on the playground and in the cafeteria as much as she's in her office. It means seeing her school as a center of the community that helps families with food and safety as well as education. Every day is different, says Baker, who worked as Canyons' Director of Student Support Services before requesting to return to school leadership.

"I've never forgotten what it's like to be a teacher first," Baker says. "That's what we're all about, to help smooth the path for the teachers so they can do their job well. I love that about the job. I get to do something I love every day."

Principals throughout Canyons District work to meet the needs of their specific community, from having food pantries on-site, to offering a summer academy that helps students transition to high school to helping students earn college credit while still in high school.

Principals are tasked with helping students become college- and career-ready, but they also face more needs and demands now, as the amount of student trauma, homelessness, domestic issues and significant personal struggles in their student body have increased, says Canyons Assistant Superintendent Dr. Bob Dowdle. 

"The job is just huge, but our people do a tremendous job and I would take our school-based administrators and compare them with anyone in the nation," Dowdle said. "They care about what they do, they do good work, and we see evidence through student achievement that shows their work is effective."
When it comes to matters of money, Canyons District is in good hands. For the eighth year running, the District has received a Meritorious Budget Award from the Association of School Business Officials International.

The award recognizes CSD’s commitment to the highest standards of school budgeting.

“School business officials are responsible for ensuring taxpayer dollars are spent wisely, and that the district budget reflects student priorities and needs,” said ASBO International Executive Director John Musso in a statement. “This award recognizes districts that have made it clear they want students at the center of their fiscal plan and vision.”

Canyons, under the leadership of Business Administrator Leon Wilcox, also routinely earns the Distinguished Budget Presentation Award from the Government Finance Officers Association. The Distinguished Budget Presentation Award is the association’s highest award in government budgeting. It recognizes Canyons’ budget as an outstanding policy document, financial plan, operations guide, and communications device.

Canyons also has maintained a sterling AAA bond rating, which has a bearing on the District’s ability to affordably bond to pay for upgrades to aging school buildings. A high rating is like having perfect credit, which translates to low interest rates and millions in savings to taxpayers.
Can adding daylight to children’s daily diet of reading, writing and arithmetic boost student achievement?

It may sound far-fetched, but “daylighting” — or the addition of windows, skylights and full spectrum lighting — is catching on as a powerful and relatively inexpensive way to improve the learning environment at schools. Motivated by research showing how light is critical for the productivity and well-being of students and school employees, the Canyons Board of Education has proposed a tax-rate-neutral bond that, among other things, would be used to add large windows and skylights to 18 elementary schools in all corners of the District.

When Canyons was created, it inherited aging schools from a previous school district. Some have so many safety, seismic and other structural and technological deficiencies, according to a group of independent engineers, that they need to be rebuilt. “Learning can only happen in an environment where children feel cared for, secure and comfortable,” says CSD’s Facilities Director Rick Conger.

Other schools still have years of life in them, but were designed in such a way that they don’t allow in much light. These schools were built in the 1960s and 1970s at a time when open classrooms were in vogue, explained CSD’s Facilities Director Rick Conger. Classrooms back then were divided by partitions or bookshelves, instead of walls, giving them a cozy living-room-like atmosphere conducive to hands-on, collaborative learning. As such, light was able to easily filter through the school. Screen_Shot_2017-10-04_at_1.13.40_PM.png

But over the years, as teachers found the open design to be noisy and disruptive, walls were added, thereby closing many classrooms off to fresh air and natural light. “Open designs still have a place in education,” notes Conger. “There’s actually been a resurgence of interest in group learning and experiential forms of instruction. But the key is building classrooms to support all types of instruction, including group learning and traditional lectures. Today’s designs feature moveable partitions and modular furniture. They are built for flexibility.”

Today’s schools also are constructed to infuse classrooms with loads of light. While research on non-traditional forms of instruction is mixed, there’s growing consensus on the benefits of light. 

A recent study published in the Building and Environment Journal found that classroom design choices, such as lighting, can affect a child’s academic progress over a year by as much as 25 percent. In another 2003 study, cited by the U.S. Department of Education, classrooms with the most daylight had a 20 percent better learning rate in math and 26 percent improved rate in reading when compared to classrooms with little to no natural light.

There’s also data suggesting large windows with views of outdoor greenery can lower the stress and mental fatigue of students and improve the productivity of teachers. And that’s without considering the indirect environmental health benefits of newer, more energy efficient lighting fixtures.

Light, of course, makes it easier to perceive what’s going on around us. It controls the body’s circadian system, or sleep-wake cycles, and has an influence on the body’s secretion of hormones affecting cognitive performance, writes Anjali Joseph, Ph.D. for the Center for Health Care Design. For these reasons, and more, many states and municipalities require that inpatient hospital rooms have windows.

“There's a lot of research to show that when paired with evidenced-based instruction, well-designed school environments can positively influence student learning,” says CSD’s Instructional Supports Director Amber Roderick-Landward.
The official organization of Canyons District educators has endorsed the District’s $283 million tax-rate-neutral bond proposal that is on the ballot in this fall’s General Election.

The Canyons Education Association, which represents Canyons educators in salary and policy negotiations with the District, announced its support of the measure that would generate money to build and renovate schools.

“Canyons Education Association is pleased to announce that the CEA Executive Board voted to support the Canyons School District bond. Patrons have seen the positive impact the previous bond had on the learning environments and safety of our students and staff, including the addition of natural light in buildings and the rebuild of aging facilities,” said CEA President Erika Bradshaw.  “The new projects planned with the current bond will continue this endeavor and create the best infrastructure of any district in the state. CEA supports Canyons School District’s efforts to renew and rebuild to create safe, attractive, and modern learning environments for all students in our district.”

If the bond proposal is approved by a majority of voters on Nov. 7, the District would rebuild Hillcrest and Brighton high schools; Union Middle; Peruvian Park, Midvalley and a White City-area elementary schools; remodel a significant part of Alta High, including the addition of a state-of-the-art auditorium and a gymnasium; build classrooms to replace the portables at Corner Canyon High; build six front office remodels; and complete natural-lighting projects at 18 elementary schools.

This is the third major endorsement of the bond measure. Midvale City approved a resolution on Sept. 19, 2017 that stated elected city leaders believe “it is in the best interests of the City and its residents to support the Bond Proposal.”  Region 17 PTA, the recognized parent group for Canyons’ schools, also backs the bond, which would raise facility-improvement funds without raising property taxes. 

Canyons District has an established track record with bond proposals. CSD has nearly completed all 13 of the major projects promised to the community in 2010 when a $250 million tax-rate-neutral bond proposal was approved by the public.

A new Midvale Middle and Alta View Elementary, the 11th and 12th projects, opened this fall. Crews are currently working on the 13th project, a renovation of Indian Hills Middle. Construction is expected to be completed by fall. Click here for a list of all other projects.

The 2010 bond helped the District start addressing the $650 million in deferred maintenance on buildings that were inherited from a previous school district. The current proposal would fund the continuation of CSD’s plan to modernize and improve all buildings in all parts of the District.

The District’s AAA bond rating will guarantee the lowest possible interest rates are obtained when the bonds are sold.
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