Because we all breathe the same air, and share in the responsibility to safeguard it from the harmful pollutants emitted by our homes, businesses and vehicles, Canyons District has declared all of its school campuses idle-free zones.

With inversion season upon us, we're re-issuing our Clean Air Challenge and inviting families to join us in combining car trips to conserve gas, walking and biking to school instead of driving, and reducing schoolyard idling during morning drop-offs and afternoon pickups.

On Earth Day, 2016, Canyons became the first school district in Utah to go idle free at all of its schools. The campaign kicked off early in the morning at Ridgecrest elementary school where students greeted drivers with placards, informational pamphlets and window clings to place in vehicles. Signs were placed at all of Canyons’ schools and “no idling” pledges were sent home with students, encouraging parents to voluntarily pledge to turn their key and be idle free.

The idea originated with a parent who dropped by Superintendent Dr. Jim Briscoe’s office just over a month ago to share her frustration at seeing exhaust billowing into the air at her child’s school’s parking lot. Briscoe took her concerns to the Board of Education, and within a matter of weeks, the district’s “no idling” campaign was born. 

“Besides educating students, I feel we have some responsibility for their health, and their future health,” says Briscoe, noting that projections show school enrollment doubling over the next 30 years.

Parents spoke, and we listened. Starting with the 2019-2020 school year, Canyons District’s schools will let out for the summer in May, instead of the first week of June.

“Teachers and parents have expressed concern about our schools letting out later than those in neighboring districts,” says Planning and Enrollment Director Dr. Floyd Stensrud. “The later end-date makes it difficult for families to coordinate summer vacations and for high school students to compete for summer jobs.”

The changes will take effect with the start of the 2019-2020 school year, and were approved by the Board of Education based on recommendations by the District’s Calendar Committee, which is made up of employees, and parents. Teachers also provided input via two extensive surveys.

Under the new calendars, there also will be fewer Fridays when school is not in session, alleviating the need for working parents to secure child care. There will be no change in the number of instructional days or holidays, and Brighton High will remain on a trimester schedule.

To aid families in their planning, the new, tentatively-approved calendars for 2019-2020 and 2020-2021 can be found on the District’s website.
Alta High School last week welcomed talkative visitors for the 30th annual Black and Silver Debate Tournament. 

Eighty schools from 14 states were represented at the Tournament of Champions-qualifying event, with 500 students who came from as far away as Florida to compete.  

From Thursday to Saturday, some 200 adult chaperones and judges accompanied the students, who debated various topics in public forum, policy debate, and Lincoln-Douglas debate. “It’s very busy, logistically speaking,” said Alta debate coach Tanya Roundy. “It really pulls us together as a team, because they spend a lot of time working to get things to come together and managing the tournament together.”

Alta history teacher Rique Ochoa first established the debate tournament 30 years ago to provide his students an opportunity to compete at a high-level tournament without having to travel. Debaters who make it to the finals at the Black and Silver tourney qualify to go on to compete in the national Tournament of Champions.

In later years, host schools were no longer allowed to compete in their own tournaments, to avoid the appearance of bias. However, the Black and Silver competition is still a great opportunity for Alta’s debate students to use their skills, Roundy says.

“They use a lot of their speech skills, meeting new people, talking about these topics, hearing perspectives and arguments from all over the United States,” Roundy said. “They also get the benefit of learning how to manage time and organize and event plan.”

This year, Alta’s debate team had a bumper crop of 30 novice members and six varsity members. The team has students on the wrestling team, swim team, basketball players, actors, and all academic levels, Roundy says. She attributes the growing interest in Alta’s debate team as a carryover from the debate programs initiated in the District’s middle and elementary schools.

“It can really bring a lot of students with different interests together,” Roundy said. “Debate allows them to explore whatever their strengths are and build on those.”
The Board of Education, acting as a Board of Canvassers, on Tuesdsay, Nov. 21, 2017 voted unanimously to accept the tally of the votes in the Nov. 7 bond election — the results of which will enable the District to immediately continue building up Canyons with modern, safe and welcoming schools.   

According to the Salt Lake County Clerk’s Office, 57.8 percent of the 51,429 residents who cast ballots voted in favor of the District’s $283 million bond proposal. Some 42.2 percent voted against the tax-rate-neutral measure. Voter turnout was 48.2 percent.  A canvas, or an examination, of the returns is required two weeks after an election. 

Funds garnered through a series of issuances will be used on 11 major construction and renovation projects. This includes rebuilds of Brighton and Hillcrest high schools, a significant renovation of Alta High, a rebuild of Union Middle, rebuilds of Peruvian Park and Midvalley elementary schools, a new school in the White City area, and a new school in the west Draper section of the District. Offices at six elementary schools will be remodeled, classrooms will replace the portables at Corner Canyon High, and 18 other elementary schools also will get windows and skylights to bring in natural light to classrooms and hallways.

With the vote of confidence, the District is moving quickly to realize the facility-improvement plans created at the outset of the bond proposal. On Tuesday night, the Board unanimously adopted a resolution authorizing the issuance of up to $49 million in general-obligation bonds to pay for construction and for refunding certain obligations of the District for a cost savings. The bonds can be sold after the required 30-day contest period of the bond election.

The Board already has selected the general contractors to oversee the construction of new Brighton and Hillcrest high schools and the major renovation at Alta High. An architectural firm also has been selected to design the new Union Middle. Even with the actions, the Board members have firmly emphasized that no project-priority list has been approved.  The contract approvals simply secure a price for contractor work. The Board will continue its discussions regarding project timetables at an upcoming meeting.

After the Board officially accepted the ballot count, Board 1st Vice President Nancy Tingey noted the successful bond vote came nearly 10 years to the day that residents in Cottonwood Heights, Draper, Midvale, Sandy and the town of Alta voted to create a new school district, which eventually became Canyons. “This is historic,” Tingey said. “I think it’s a major event for our District. Driving here (to the meeting) tonight, I was thinking back 10 years ago, when the District was created and what has been able to occur in the past 10 years in our community. I wanted to recognize that and celebrate that.”

The canvassed results show the majority of voters in every municipality in Canyons District voted in favor of the bond. In Cottonwood Heights and Midvale, 62.5 percent voted in favor of the measure. In Draper and Sandy, the figure reached 56.6 percent and 56 percent, respectively.

Canyons Superintendent Dr. Jim Briscoe congratulated the Board on the successful outcome. “It took courage to put the measure on the ballot,” he said, adding that the successful vote, and by such a significant margin, is a reflection “of how the general public feels about the direction of the District.” 

Board President Sherril Taylor said the state of the facilities on the east side of the old Jordan District was a major reason why residents voted to create CSD. An architectural review done at the District’s founding indicated that CSD buildings needed $650 million in needed repairs.  Since 2010, when patrons approved a $250 million bond to start addressing the facility needs, CSD has completed 12 of 13 promised school-improvement projects. The 13th project, a renovation of Indian Hills Middle, is expected to be complete in time for the start of school in fall 2018.

The sense of excitement is nearly palpable, says member Mont Millerberg, who served on the Board when the 2010 bond proposal was approved with 50.66 percent of the vote. The buzz at Hillcrest High’s sold-out-every-night production of “Les Miserables” was the potential of having a state-of-the-art auditorium at the newly rebuilt school, Millerberg said.

“It really does boil down to the parents and the patrons,” President Taylor said, adding that many of the bond supporters no longer have children in Canyons District schools.  “They realize that we are paying forward to the future. I am proud of my generation for doing that and voting for the bond to take care of their grandchildren and other peoples’ children.  We would not be the country we are without public education, I guarantee that.”
Sunrise Elementary teacher Patricia Stephens-French froze when the door to her classroom opened and a crowd of folks in blue shirts filed in. She took one look at the giant check in the hands of a member of the Canyons Education Foundation and she knew exactly what was happening: her wish was about to come true.

Each year, Canyons’ Education Foundation raises funds to offer grants to teachers with big ideas in Canyons District. Teachers apply to receive the $1,000 to $10,000 grants based on their innovative ideas on how to enhance teaching in their classrooms through technology, materials or supplemental programs. 

The teachers come from all subject areas — from math and science to music and language — with requests ranging from iPads to instrumental clinicians. This year, more than $104,000 will be delivered to 16 Innovation Grant recipients throughout the District.

“I’m shaking — you guys, this is so amazing,” Stephens-French told her students as she took her check for $4,049 into her hands. “We are going to have so much fun!”

Stephens-French, who teaches a fifth-grade SALTA class, submitted her grant application to be able to purchase technology to allow her students opportunities to explore alternative ways to share their knowledge with the world.

Teachers requested robotics kits, a 3-D printer, printmaking supplies, Google cardboard, and music experts and recording equipment to add to their classroom instruction. The Foundation has awarded Innovation Grants to teachers since 2011, after working with members of the community to raise funds to support the educational experience of Canyons’ students.

Each year, the Foundation hosts two fundraisers to generate funds to benefit Canyons’ students. An annual golf tournament is used to raise funds for Innovation Grants. An annual gala is used to raise funds for student scholarships. The next golf tournament is scheduled for Sept. 19, 2018. The gala is April 19.

For Stephens-French, the support she received through receiving an Innovation Grant is vital. Through her grant, she will receive 10 iPads, a cart, three microphones, a Green Screen and three stands.

“We’ll have a chance to be super creative in here,” Stephens-French said. “The possibilities are just endless.”
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