Three Canyons students who are preparing to walk across the graduation stage on June 5 have finished their high school years on an impressive academic milestone: They have been named 2018 National Merit Scholars.

Hillcrest High’s Kara Komarnitsky and Madeline Martin are joined by Corner Canyon High’s August Burton on the list of the $2,500 scholarship winners from Utah. They are among the 2,500 students who rose to the top of the field of 15,000 semifinalists to earn the honor. This year, 14 students from all five of Canyons District’s traditional high schools earned semifinalist status.   

National Merit Scholars are selected by a committee of college admissions officers and high school counselors. Applicants are judged on their academic records, including the rigor of the classes taken during their high school years; scores from standardized tests; contributions and leadership at their schools; and involvement in the community. Finalists also penned essays.

The number of winners named in each state is proportional to the state’s percentage of the nation’s graduating high school seniors

The awards mark the end of an arduous application process.  Students vying for National Merit Scholarships start the journey in October 2016. That’s when more than 1.65 million juniors in some 22,000 schools took the Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test. This served as an initial screen of the entrants.   

Last fall, the highest-scoring participants in each state, representing less than one percent of the nation’s high school seniors, were named semifinalists on a state-representational basis. Of the 16,000 semifinalists, some 15,000 students met the academic standards and other requirements to earn finalist status in the scholarship contest.
The Huskies are getting a new home, and we’re celebrating with a ceremonial turning of dirt.

Students, teachers, parents and members of the community are invited to a groundbreaking ceremony at Hillcrest High on Thursday, May 31 to herald the start of a rebuild of the campus. The event will start at 5:30 p.m. with a reception followed by a ceremony at 6 p.m. 

The new Hillcrest High is being made possible by a $283 million, tax-rate-neutral bond approved by Canyons voters in 2017. Construction will start this summer and be undertaken in phases over three years to allow the school to remain in operation.

The 56-year-old school has a strong heritage, and special attention is being paid to building a modern environment wired for emerging technologies without sacrificing elements of the existing building that are rooted in tradition. DelMar Schick Stadium will remain untouched, but among major improvements are a new field house and performing arts complex to match Hillcrest’s history of excellence in the arts.

The floor-plan for the new school — the addition of a commons area and emphasis on open spaces illuminated by natural light — is being designed with school safety and security in mind. Classroom windows that open onto commons areas for group study and teacher-collaboration will contribute to a culture of transparency and inclusiveness. Hallways will be configured to provide administrators an unobstructed view of the campus, and classroom windows configured to preserve safety zones in the classrooms.

Since Canyons’ inception, the District has worked to plan for growth while also addressing the safety and technological deficiencies of the aging buildings it received from a previous school district. Thirteen improvement projects were financed with proceeds from a bond approved by voters in 2010.  The last project, a renovation of Indian Hills Middle, will be finished in time for the start of school this fall. 

The 2017 bond will make it possible for CSD to rebuild six schools, including Hillcrest, remodel Alta High, build a new elementary school in west Draper to accommodate growth, remodel offices at six elementary schools, and add skylights for more natural light at 18 elementary schools.
The Canyons Board of Education and the Canyons Education Association are pleased to announce a tentative agreement regarding licensed-educator compensation for the 2018-2019 school year. The contract, a 5.67 percent boost to CSD educator compensation, is the result of extensive good-faith negotiations between the CEA and the District Administration. The salary and benefits package provides both across-the-board salary increases and one-time bonuses, continuing Canyons District’s investment in a stated commitment to attracting and retaining highly skilled, innovative, and engaged educators. Under the contract, the District agrees to a 2.5 percent, or $1,335, cost-of-living increase in addition to advancing every teacher a $900-per-year increment level on the salary schedule. Combined, the increase to the base contract will be $2,235. Also, in November, all full-time CSD teachers will receive a $500 one-time bonus, and veteran educators with continuous service with the District prior to July 1, 1998 will receive an additional $500 one-time bonus. The District will increase its share of health-insurance premiums by 3 percent, regardless of the employee’s chosen insurance plan.  Employees on the traditional plan will see a 3 percent increase; employees on the high-deductible plan will not experience any increase. The Board of Education approved the tentative agreement in a public meeting Tuesday, May 8, 2018. Members of the Canyons Education Association are in the process of voting on the tentative agreement. The Board of Education, Administration and CEA appreciate the collaboration and dedication of all parties to reach an agreement on the contract, and look forward to its implementation.
They go out of their way to make students feel special. They give of their free time to support teachers. They find resources for schools, forge creative paths around big problems and have worked shoulder-to-shoulder to build Canyons into a world-class district.

For their contributions, hard work and dedication to advancing the mission and vision of Canyons District, the Board of Education and Administration seek to recognize them. 

Canyons District is now taking nominations for the 2018 Apex Awards, the annual honors given by CSD leaders to teachers, administrators, district office personnel, volunteers and community partners. The Apex Awards, started in 2010, are the highest honors given by Canyons District to the people who help make CSD the place to be. 

Award categories are: 
  • Teacher of the Year
  • School Administrator of the Year 
  • District Administrator of the Year 
  • Business Partner of the Year 
  • Volunteer of the Year 
  • Elected Official of the Year 
  • Student Support Services Professional of the Year
  • Education Support Professional of the Year 
  • Legacy Award
Use this easy-to-use online tool to read more about the categories and to submit nominations. Nominations can be submitted until Aug. 3, 2018.

Nominations for Apex Awards can be submitted for all categories except Teacher of the Year. The Canyons District’s Teacher of the Year is selected in the spring and is CSD’s nominee in the state Teacher of the Year competition. This year's winner is Amber Rogers, a social studies educator at Corner Canyon High.  She was selected from a field of 47 teachers from every CSD school in the District.

The winners of the 2018 Apex Awards are celebrated at a by-invitation-only banquet and awards ceremony. This year’s event will be Sept. 11, 2018 at The Gathering Place at Gardner Village, 1100 W. 7800 South.

Questions? Call Jeff Haney or Kirsten Stewart in the Office of Public Communications at 801-826-5084 or 801-826-5050 or send a note to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..
Five Eastmont Middle students received a surprise message this week from Albus Dumbledore requesting “the pleasure” of their company in the library after school.

Their mission, according to the headmaster, was to solve 40 puzzles to unlock hidden Horcruxes and Hallows and defeat “He Who Shall Not Be Named.” The fivesome donned wizard robes and sequestered themselves in an elaborately-designed broom closet where, by working together and drawing upon the knowledge of concepts they’ve learned throughout the school year, they followed a trail of clues to save Hogwarts — no spells or charms necessary.

Eastmont Middle’s Harry Potter-themed escape room, which debuted this week to an enthusiastic group of Potter fans, is the brainchild of English teacher Anna Alger and history teacher Richard Mellor. It took Mellor more than 300 weekend and holiday hours to design all the mind-bending puzzles and retrofit one of the school’s empty supply closets with flickering candles, wood flooring, hand-sculpted “rock” walls made of foam insulation, and clever artifacts.
Potterroom.jpg It was a labor of love undertaken with the singular goal of bringing a little wonder and magic back to learning. “We just wanted a fun, interactive experience where students could apply what they’ve learned in a different way,” Mellor says.

Game-based learning, or the “gamification” of education, is taking hold in classrooms across the country. Typically, the strategy involves deploying computerized tools or education-related videogames as a means to capture students’ interest. Nearly one-third of high school students play three or more hours of videogames a day, so why not leverage gaming principles for teaching and learning?

Whether gamification works to sustain student engagement is a matter of some debate. But Mellor’s motivation was more practical than theoretical. He was looking for a fun way to keep kids challenged, and in so doing, discovered that games don’t have to be high-tech to spark the imagination.

“The escape room is decidedly low-tech,” he says. “The students have to work by candlelight (battery operated), and there are no calculators to assist them in solving long-division problems. They have to use feather quills instead of pens to work through problems on paper.”

Mellor and Alger financed the project with a Donors Choose grant through the Chevron Fuel Your School program. “I’ve written many grants for books or STEM supplies, but Fuel Your School is the one grant where you can ask for funding for weird thing like wizard wands, potion bottes, and replica quidditch sets,” Mellor says.

He’s an unabashed Potter fan, but the escape room is rooted in the curriculum, not fantasy. The first group of students to enter took nearly two hours to complete all the tasks before enjoying a celebratory treat of “butterbeers,” or cream soda floats.

Mellor has since paired back the puzzles, but says, “it was fun to watch their excitement, and to see them work as teams” to solve anagrams and riddles, and to mix bubbling potions and translate hieroglyphic messages.

One of the biggest benefits of game-based learning, he says, is that it frees students to take charge of their learning and teaches them to push past failure as part of the process. “It’s truly independent learning,” Mellor says. “So much of what we do in class is guided learning. But with games, students have to figure it out themselves and rely on each other.”

Students are cuing up to give the escape room a try after school. Eventually, Eastmont will open it up to public use, free of charge. Interested families or youth groups will need to reserve a spot in advance by emailing Mellor at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Soon, Mellor may undertake a second CSI escape room where students are tasked with solving crimes.

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