Did you know that at Canyons District, it's possible to learn two languages at the same time and to graduate from high school fluent in both?

The start of October signals the opening of the window to apply for Canyons District's Dual Language Immersion Programs for the 2019-2020 school year. From Monday, Oct. 8 to Wednesday, Nov. 21, parents and guardians can apply online to have their children learn Spanish, French or Mandarin Chinese.

In addition, parents and guardians who have questions about the programs are invited to a Parent Information Night on Wednesday, Oct. 24. The 6-8 p.m. event will be held in the Professional Development Center at the Canyons Administration Building-East, 9361 S. 300 East.

Please note, that students with siblings currently enrolled in a Dual-Language Immersion school must still submit applications by the Nov. 21 deadline. A lottery will be held to determine entrance into the programs if the number of applicants exceeds the 56 seats available per entering class. 

On the application, parents will be asked to list their top three preferred languages and schools. Parents will be notified of their children’s acceptance into a program, or be given a choice of possible programs, on Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2019.

All programs, except for the one at Midvale Elementary, are for students entering first grade in 2019-2020.

Midvale Elementary’s Spanish-English program operates a bit differently: It starts in kindergarten, and due to the fact that enrollment at the school is at-capacity, it’s only open to students who live inside the school’s boundaries. 

Spanish, however, also is offered at Alta View and Silver Mesa. French is taught at Butler Elementary and Oak Hollow. The schools offering Mandarin are Draper Elementary, Lone Peak, and Ridgecrest.

A model of bilingual instruction dating back to the 1960s, immersion programs are surfacing in classrooms around the globe as an efficient path to proficiency in a world language. Children in dual language immersion programs spend half the day learning core subjects in English and the other half learning in a target language. 

CSD’s first immersion classes opened in 2009, the same year that the District was founded. The District is now home to 19 elementary and secondary school immersion programs. More than 10 percent of CSD’s 34,000 students are now learning a world language through the program, which extends through high school where, if they pass an Advanced Placement exam, students can start taking college-level courses for early college credit.

Questions? Call the Instructional Supports Department at 801-826-5026.
It’s parent-teacher conference season in Utah, a ritual dating back at least 50 years. More than half-a-million of these meetings are planned statewide in the coming weeks, which amounts to a big investment of time and energy on behalf of schools and families.

So, how parents get the most out of this opportunity for facetime with faculty? What kinds of questions should they be asking? Are these meet-and-greets even still relevant or useful in today's hyper-connected world where parents are signing up to receive daily electronic homework reminders, tardy notices, and report card updates? 

"As a mother, if my child is sick and needs to stay home for the day, I can email the teacher for missed assignments or log in to an online portal to print out homework instructions. Schools have made it very easy for parents to communicate with teachers and keep smallkidstabs on their children's progress," acknowledges Colleen Smith, a longtime principal and now Administrator of Canyons School District’s Responsive Services Department. "But there are still those questions or concerns that are best discussed in a face-to-face meeting with the teacher. If anything, I’d say parent-teacher conferences today are more productive and meaningful because parents are coming into them already front-loaded with information about their child’s progress. The limited amount of time they have with the teacher can then be spent zeroing in on one or two issues of importance."

First, and foremost, Smith urges parents do their homework. "Take some time before the parent-teacher conference to review your child’s work and to ask your child about his or her experience at school, and then come prepared with a few questions," she says. "Maybe you want to know what your child’s year-end math scores mean and how they were calculated. You might ask about how much homework to expect. Or, perhaps your child is struggling, and you’d like to know more about the school’s process for identifying and supporting students with special needs."

smallgreetTeachers are prepared to fill the allotted time by reviewing a portfolio of a child’s work, grades, and test scores. But Smith says, "If you’ve got specific questions, they’re only too happy to spend the time answering them. In Canyons District, we take a team approach to education, so teachers will take what they learn from parents back to their teams to brainstorm new ways of supporting their students. We also involve students in our parent-teacher conferences, which helps to keep everyone on the same page and reinforce expectations."

If parents have specific concerns that they'd prefer to discuss without their child present, schools also will accommodate that.

Smith advises parents to go into these meetings looking for: 1) something to celebrate, because there’s always something to celebrate; 2) an understanding of how the child is doing in class, academically and behaviorally; and 3) a set of tangible goals for improvement.

"Schools schedule parent-teacher conferences early in the year or semester so as to allow time for students to correct-course, adopt good study habits, and set personal achievement goals," she says. "A goal can be as simple as agreeing to read for at least 20 minutes a day. But the more concrete the goal, the better."

Teachers might even have a few questions themselves. "Teachers like knowing about their students' hobbies and interests, because it helps them find new ways to connect with and inspire them," Smith says. "Come prepared with questions, be curious and looking for something to celebrate, and a meaningful, enjoyable conversation will most likely unfold."

Here are a few suggested questions to get the conversation started:

How are things going in the classroom?
  • What are students expected to learn academically and socially?
  • What does an average day in the classroom look like?
  • Is my child doing his or her best?
  • What are the goals for the year, and how will progress toward those goals be measured? (Don’t be afraid to ask the teacher to clarify jargon or explain what tests mean or how grades are calculated).
Looking ahead, what should our focus be?
  • What are some concrete steps my child can take to improve?
  • Does my child need extra help?
  • What can we do to support our child at home?
  • If we have questions or concerns, how would you prefer to communicate—in-person or by email or phone?

Sandra Dahlhoulihan was in her office trying to squeeze in some paperwork before school let out for the day when she heard the fire alarm. 

“Instinctively, I knew it was the real deal,” says the former Sandy Elementary principal who grabbed her walkie talkie and strode into the hallway where she immediately detected the oaky scent of smoke. The entire school, the staff and teachers, sprang into action and began quickly and calmly evacuating classrooms, sweeping the building and making sure everyone was accounted for.

“Most of the kids assumed it was another drill,” recalls Dahlhoulihan, now an administrator in Canyons District’s Human Resources Department. “It all transpired so fast. You plan for something like this, and hope it never actually happens. But because we had practiced the procedures, everyone knew exactly what to do."

Happily, school fires have become increasingly rare. Modern construction materials and fire suppression technologies have contributed to a dramatic drop in all structure fires and fire related deaths and injuries in the United States. But these trends, while comforting, shouldn’t lull schools into a false sense of security, says Canyons District Risk Manager Kevin Ray. “Until the risk is zero, schools absolutely need to practice responding to fires.” 

In accordance with state law and Canyons District’s Emergency Response Plan—and in conjunction with National Preparedness Month in September—the first two months of each school year are set aside for fire drills. In the coming weeks, postcards will be mailed to all Canyons District families with an explanation of what happens during a fire drill and steps the District takes to communicate in emergencies. Canyons also has launched a new “Think Safe” webpage and instructional video with the aim of starting a community conversation about how everyone, from students and teachers to parents, can work together to keep schools welcoming, secure and prepared.

“As any educator or parent knows, children can only learn where they feel cared for and safe. Safety has always been a priority of Canyon District’s administration, and we are continually looking for ways to make our schools even safer,” says CSD’s Superintendent Dr. Jim Briscoe.  


All Canyons District schools practice lockdown and shelter-in-place drills throughout the year, in addition to preparing for a host of other threats, from earthquakes to hazardous materials. Secondary schools participate in these drills on a quarterly basis. Elementary schools hold drills at least once a month with fire drills being the most frequent. 

An estimated 4,000 school building fires are reported each year by American fire departments, causing 75 injuries on average and $66 million in property damage. Most fires in elementary schools start in the kitchen, whereas in middle and high schools, they are predominantly human-caused and set intentionally or unintentionally by students. 

Such was the case at Sandy Elementary where a student, experimenting with a lighter obtained from home, set fire to a coat that was hanging on a coat rack above a recycling bin full of paper. The student had lingered behind classmates who were exiting a computer lab and secretly set the blaze on his way out of the room. It didn’t take long for the flames to spread and trigger the school’s alarm and sprinkling system. 

“Most of the damage we sustained was water damage,” Dahlhoulihan says. The District had to suspend school for a day to assess the damage and temporarily relocate two classrooms to the gymnasium. The repairs were substantial and costly, and it took about three weeks before the classrooms were ready for use. 

Looking back now, Dahlhoulihan says she learned a great deal from the experience. The fire happened on a Wednesday afternoon in November, 2011. Luckily, the weather that day was unseasonably warm. Had it been chillier outside, or had the fire happened earlier in the day, it would have been more difficult to keep students comfortable and reunify them with families, Dahlhoulihan says. “We would have had to find safe spaces to keep the students warm and occupied and bring in snacks and water.”

Every crisis is unique and brings to light unforeseen snags, which is why it’s important to put response plans to the test through simulated events, or regular emergency drills, Dahlhoulihan says. “After the fire, and another incident we had that year, we developed more detailed plans for clearing and sweeping the building, assisting students with special needs, and documenting the location of our roving support staff. Safety became a priority at our school, and not just for fires, but for anything that could happen.”
America’s liberties, as delineated in the country’s major founding document, are being celebrated today, Monday, Sept. 17, 2018 for U.S. Constitution Day. 

While the truths in the constitution are held to be self-evident, students across the District are learning first-hand through lessons, games, and even a personal visit to an oath-of-citizenship ceremony in Salt Lake City what it means to take upon the mantle of being an American citizen.

At Midvale Middle, students compared the words of the original constitution to one that was ratified later. Sandy Elementary Sharks talked about the reason for the day on their student-produced morning news show.  Constitution-related trivia also was played at the outset of every period today at Eastmont Middle, and if any Patriot can recite the Preamble to any administrator by Thursday, they can be rewarded with the opportunity to obtain items from the school store.     

But perhaps the most touching event was witnessed by Alta High social-studies and music students.

Alta High students were invited to participate in Monday’s naturalization ceremony at the U.S. District Court. The Salt Lake event is held annually to mark the Sept. 18, 1787 signing of the U.S. Constitution, and is an observance that began in 1940 as "I Am an American Day.”

At the touching ceremony, the Hawks’ Madrigals performed patriotic songs, and two seniors, Ricky Wooden and Shannon van Uitert, were chosen to read personal essays about the constitution.

"Mainly," Wooden said of the U.S. Constitution, "it's the one thing that binds us all together." Religion doesn't do that, sports don't do that — "but the constitution does," he said.    

Wooden said it took him about an hour to collect his thoughts and write the essay, which focused on how the document was drafted and how ultimately “it wants us to express our voices.”

The constitution, he said, “certainly gives us responsibilities …So we can protect it, and it can protect us.”   

van Uitert says she hopes the new citizens took her words to heart: "I hope it means as much to them as it means to me." She and her peers, as well as others in the audience, heard touching American-dream stories from new U.S. citizens hailing from Iraq, Mexico, Samoa, Tonga, Brazil, Australia, Africa, Dominican Republic, India, Burma, Ecuador, and Bolivia. 

van Uitert said she wanted to speak directly to the new citizens about how the “rights and privileges” given in the constitution aid citizens in their pursuits of happiness. 

The service in Salt Lake City is one of more than 260 naturalization ceremonies scheduled to be held this week in the United States. This year, America will welcome approximately 45,000 new citizens at the ceremonies.
The economy is on the rebound, jobs are plentiful and wages are up. So, how can young people just entering the workforce take advantage of the boom?

Some of the leading sectors of the economy right now are in engineering, computer science and health care. There’s also huge demand for skilled professionals in the trades. A 2017 study out of the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce found that between 1991 and 2015, good jobs in non-manufacturing trade industries, such as construction and transportation, increased in 38 states with Utah, South Dakota and North Dakota experiencing the most pronounced growth.

And while a college degree may be the ticket to advancing in these fields, what many parents of teens don’t realize is that there are programs in high school that can give students a jump on their training.

Virtually all Utah high schools offer career and technical education courses aligned to the state’s workforce needs—and to showcase them, Canyons District is joining other school districts in sponsoring the annual Pathways to Professions expo (see details below).

The Oct.16-17 expo is free and a great way for high school-aged students to explore their academic options.

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