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When the sun rose 10 years ago on a hot August morning, change was in the air.

Bus drivers were heading out on new routes. Nutrition workers were starting from scratch as they planned students’ meals. Principals and teachers were preparing to welcome students back to school with a renewed sense of purpose and excitement.

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It was the first day of school, Aug. 26, 2009, in the first school district to be created in Utah in 100 years. It was a day of excitement, electricity—and in all honesty, a little bit of anxiety. It’s a day Canyons School District will never forget. As we celebrate the start of Canyons’ 10th school year, we’re taking stock of the highlights of a decade of educational excellence where, from that first sunrise, the focus has been on student achievement, innovation, community engagement, customer service and fiscal responsibility.

“In the 10 years since Canyons School District opened its doors, a lot has happened,” said Canyons Board of Education President Sherril Taylor, who has served on the board since its creation. “From communities to curriculum—even down to the landscape—there have been many changes. We are proud of what we have accomplished, and we are proud to offer a world-class education to our students. We have come so far, and the best is yet to come for our Canyons District family.”
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Canyons’ tradition of rolling out a red carpet to greet students on the first day of school began 10 years ago on the first day of school. It signified a new beginning, an emphasis on helping every student become college-and career-ready and the idea that student success is the driving motivator in all that Canyons does.

From that time, Canyons has focused energy and resources across the District to bolster students and educators in their endeavors. Key accomplishments from the last decade include:

From 2010-2017, Canyons built eight new schools, extensively renovated four schools, and started work on the 13th and final renovation project made possible by a $250 million bond approved by voters in 2010. Other schools received seismic and other safety upgrades, cooling systems, and other improvements. This was done without raising taxes and while maintaining the District’s AAA bond rating.
Since its inception, Canyons has given teachers some kind of compensation increase, a cost-of-living or step increase, or both—even during the Great Recession. In the past two years alone, teacher pay has risen by double digits, including a $5,000 bump in the starting teacher salary.
In 2011, Canyons introduced the state’s first differentiated, or Advanced and Honors, diplomas to signal students’ preparedness for college by requiring them to complete more rigorous coursework. In 2018, nearly 65 percent of students who graduated from traditional high school earned Honors or Advanced diplomas.


In 2013, Canyons’ schools were reconfigured to move sixth-graders into middle school and ninth-graders into high school. The change created a more clearly defined four-year path to graduation in high school, and made it possible for middle schools to focus on meeting the needs of 6-8th graders during a time dramatic physical, intellectual and emotional development.
In 2015, Canyons created Diamond Ridge High, an alternative school for 16- to 18-year-old students who require a non-traditional setting.
In 2016, Hillcrest High launched a summer academy to help freshman excel in their first, make-or-break year and beyond. Students receive four hours of daily instruction in math, science, English and geography, throughout the summer, earning credits and cash incentives sponsored by the United Way of Greater Salt Lake. The nationally-recognized program is helping to bridge the achievement gap at Hillcrest, and has given rise to a similar program at Jordan High.

In 2016, a supplemental kindergarten instruction program was introduced to provide extra academic options to the community. With this opt-in, tuition-based program, kindergarteners receive nearly four additional hours of instruction every school day.
In 2017, the first cohort of students from Alta High participated in a partnership program between the University of Utah and Canyons District called Step2theU. Students began coursework during the summer of their junior year, and will have two complete semesters of college credit by the time they begin university.

In 2017, voters approved a $283 million bond to rebuild six schools, including Brighton and Hillcrest high schools, build one new elementary school in west Draper, replace portables with classrooms at Corner Canyon high, remodel Alta high, and remodel offices at six elementary schools. The bond also will pay to install windows and skylights for natural lighting at 18 elementary schools.
Canyons District’s K-8 students continue to outperform their Utah peers on year-end SAGE tests, in some areas by as many as 13 percentage points.

Our high school seniors also outperform their Utah peers, with a higher percentage meeting college-readiness benchmarks on the ACT college entrance exam.

From the first day Canyons became a district on July 1, 2009, teachers, administrators, and the Canyons Board of Education have brought passion, creativity, and a mindset that anything is possible to Canyons’ communities. The last 10 years have been remarkable, but all eyes are on the future. To the passing of a decade and herald the start of another, we’ve unveiled a new District logo, and have planned some community events for later in the year.

“When I first came to Canyons District five years ago I was impressed at how much had been accomplished in a few short years,” CSD’s Superintendent Dr. Jim Briscoe said. “We have continued putting students first, and working with the community. I think it’s had a huge impact. If we keep working together, there’s no end to what we can do.”

Enthusiastic Indian Hills Middle students cut short their summers to take part in the grand opening of their newly remodeled campus at a ribbon-cutting ceremony held two days before the start of school.

“This newly renovated school is for our students. It’s all for the students,” Principal Doug Graham told the crowd of parents, alumni, teachers and community members who also flocked to see the school’s bright, colorful new interior. “The community was generous enough to provide the funding for this school, and in turn I challenge our students to express their appreciation by dedicating themselves to being the best they can be for every moment they are at Indian Hills Middle.”

If the Warriors, who spent the past year of construction attending classes at the temporary location of Crescent Middle, were eager to return home, the completion of Indian Hills also marks an important milestone for Canyons School District. It is the 13th and final major school improvement project financed with proceeds from a $250 million bond approved by voters in 2010.

In just eight years, the District has rebuilt Alta View and Midvale elementary schools; renovated Albion Middle; built Corner Canyon High and Draper Park Middle; rebuilt Butler and Midvale middle schools, Butler Elementary and Mount Jordan Middle; brought Sandy Elementary up to seismic code; built additions at Hillcrest and Brighton high schools; and installed air-conditioning and heating systems in all schools—all without raising taxes and while maintaining CSD’s AAA bond rating.

For Board of Education President Sherril Taylor—an inaugural member of the Board and lifelong educator who once taught science at Indian Hills—the ribbon-cutting event felt like coming full circle. “It’s an honor to proudly declare that we did everything we said we were going to do,” he said, thanking community members for their support. “When you voted for a bond in 2010, we told you we’d build or renovate 13 schools — and this is the final one. …I have to say that today’s celebration would not be possible without you.”
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The renovation was extensive. Among the “as-new” upgrades are: an improved entryway with a security vestibule to enhance safety; a new commons area that is full of natural light and offers a view of the mountains; new classrooms, labs and collaboration spaces; and an expanded kitchen and cafeteria.

Joining students and families in celebrating the new school were Superintendent Dr. Jim Briscoe, Business Administrator Leon Wilcox, Assistant Superintendent Kathryn McCarrie, Rep. LaVar Christensen, R-Draper, representatives from Sandy City and the PTA, and Canyons Education Foundation Board members Suzanne Harrison, Brad Snow, Aaron Metcalfe, and Bill Rappleye.

“What a turnout,” remarked CSD Board member Chad Iverson, “I’ve never seen so many students so excited to get started with school.”

Doors to the newly renovated Indian Hills Middle are opening wide to welcome back the Warriors.

 A major renovation at the school has been completed in time for school to start for the 2018-2019 school year. The entire Canyons District community is invited to a ribbon-cutting ceremony and Back-to-School Night at 6 p.m. on Monday, Aug. 20 at the school, 1180 E. Sanders Road.

eb92b1e2daa0fc05788e0dbbe8ffaf72 XLThe school’s major upgrade, which required a near-total gutting of the school, is the 13th and final project promised to the public in 2010 when voters approved a $250 million tax-rate-neutral bond. Since 2010, Canyons has used proceeds from the bond to renovate Albion Middle, and build a new Mount Jordan Middle, Midvale Elementary, Midvale Middle, Corner Canyon High, Draper Park Middle, Butler Middle, Butler Elementary, Alta View, additions to Brighton and Hillcrest high schools, and add seismic upgrades at Sandy Elementary.

In addition, since its founding a decade ago, CSD has installed air-conditioning in every school that didn’t have it in fall 2009, added security vestibules at all elementary schools and six of eight middle schools; completed a soccer field, tennis courts and athletic fields near Brighton High; and completed internal and external upgrades at Alta High.

Work on the first three projects to be funded by the $283 million bond approved last November —±new Brighton and Hillcrest high schools and a major renovation of Alta High — have already started. Construction at Alta is expected to take two years, Brighton and Hillcrest will undergo a three-year transformation. Several elementary schools also have new Front Offices and windows and skylights.

Board of Education President Sherril H. Taylor and Principal Doug Graham will speak at the community event at the school. After the ribbon-cutting, refreshments will be served, and students and parents can tour the new building. To mark Back-to-School Night, teachers and staff will be on hand to greet families and answer questions.

Thanks to the renovation, completed by crews from Hogan Construction, Indian Hills students and teachers will enjoy plenty of natural light throughout the facility, six new classrooms, collaboration spaces wired for the high-tech demands of the 21st century, an expanded kitchen and cafeteria, and spacious hallways and commons areas, among other amenities. The school also has been built to enhance the safety and security of student and teachers.

Hundreds braved the early evening heat Thursday to celebrate the beginning of construction on a complete rebuild of Brighton High School. collagebhsgroundbreakingParents, alumni, members of the Cottonwood Heights City Council, Canyons District administrators, Brighton’s High’s principal, teachers and members of Canyons’ Board of Education came to celebrate this milestone for the Bengal community with a ceremonial turning of dirt. collagebhsgroundbreaking.jpg

But most of all, there were students. From the band and cheer squad who performed the school’s Fight Song to the football players who put away the chairs, Brighton’s students filled the air with cheers in eager anticipation for the remake of their campus. “Any decisions we have made about the design of this new school has been with the students in mind,” Brighton Principal Tom Sherwood said. “The physical, emotional and educational welfare of students will always be at the forefront of our decision making.”

Brighton High is among three CSD high schools to be rebuilt or remodeled starting this summer with funds from a $283 million bond approved by voters in 2017. The bond will also be used to rebuild three other schools and build one new elementary school in west Draper, as well as school improvement projects.

After opening its doors in 1969, Brighton is fast approaching its 50th birthday — but a lot has changed in 50 years. “When this school was built, the state-of-the-art technology was black and white TVs,” Sherwood said. MHTN Architects and builders from Hogan and Associates Construction will use modern techniques to build a new school that is equipped to educate students in a modern age.

The new home of the Bengals will be built in phases over three years, starting with construction of a new auditorium, arts and CTE program spaces, where the existing school sits. Throughout the project, workers will be “building a new school on top of the old school, while still having school,” said Canyons Business Administrator Leon Wilcox.

Space is a premium on the campus, and there will be challenges during the build, most notably limited parking. But Wilcox said when the new school is completed, students and employees will have more parking space than they do now.

Other design features include a line of sight down the hallways for administrators and capabilities to lock down classrooms with the push of a button, in case of emergency. The school will have large windows and skylights to bring natural light into the commons area and classrooms, with an emphasis on small-group collaboration. Efforts to preserve elements of Brighton’s history are under way, including circular design elements that harken back to the school’s beloved circular halls.

Individuals with ideas on the pieces of Brighton’s heritage they would like to save are invited to email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. with their thoughts and contributions. So many people have fond memories of the school, said Canyons Board of Education 2nd Vice President Amber Shill. “My own family is very attached to this place. As the mother of four children who have graduated from here, or who will soon attend here, I feel privileged to take part in its future.”

Over the past half-century, alumni of Brighton have gone on to be accomplished scholars, athletes, government and industry leaders, artists and contributors to their communities. Canyons School District Vice President Nancy Tingey told the crowd she’s confident many more will join them over the coming years. “With the rebuild of the school, future generations of students will build memories here, too. … Whether your children are involved in sports, whether they have an affinity or math or passion for science, they will find in this school a welcoming place to thrive.”

Members of the community came to show support to the new school. Canyons Superintendent Dr. James Briscoe, Canyons Board of Education President Sherril Taylor, as well as members Steve Wrigley, Clareen Arnold, Mont Millerberg, and Shill and Tingey, who represent the Brighton area and feeder schools, were there, as well as Rep. Marie Poulson, D-Cottonwood Heights, Utah School Board member Katherine Riebe and members of the Canyons Education Foundation.

“None of this would be possible without your support,” Shill told the audience gathered at the school. “This is possible because of those who had the vision to create this school district and the voters who showed confidence and trust in the Board of Education. This trust is not taken lightly.”

 

2d9861f7dfa371a841ce6730b641ed6c SConstruction crews are busy working on projects throughout the District, and one more elementary school will soon be joining the list. The Canyons Board of Education voted unanimously on July 17 to begin rebuilding Midvalley Elementary as the first of three elementary schools in the District to be rebuilt.

NJRA Architects will be designing the new building, and construction is anticipated to begin in April, 2019. The new school is expected to open for the 2020-2021 school year. As part of a $283 million bond approved by voters in 2017, three elementary schools in Canyons district will be rebuilt and a new elementary school in west Draper will be built. Peruvian Park and a White City school will also be rebuilt.

Canyons’ administration proposed choosing Midvalley as the first project because it is the oldest of the three buildings, has ADA issues, needs roof repairs, and will be the easiest to build onsite while students are in school during the 2019-2020 school year. Also, it can help absorb growth in west Midvale.

Midvalley originally opened in 1957. According to industry standards, an assessment of the school shows that the cost to repair the building exceeds 68 percent of the cost to replace the building. The new school will be built onsite while students continue to attend the old school.

What a year!  In the past 365 days, Canyons District, which was founded on July 1, 2009, continued its drive to provide a world-class education to the children who attend public school in Cottonwood Heights, Draper, Midvale, Sandy and the town of Alta. The 2017-2018 school year — CSD’s ninth academic year — was marked by sky-high achievements, including state-title victories by all five of CSD’s five traditional high schools, the passage of a $283 million bond to build and improve schools, the naming of National Merit Scholars and Sterling Scholars, and an estimated $32 million in scholarship offers for the 2,830 graduates in the Class of 2018.  But that’s just a small-piece-of-cake taste of all that was achieved by CSD students, faculty, staff and supporters. Here’s a look at some of the major achievements of CSD since its last founding-day anniversary:  
  • Nearly 59 percent of voters give approval to CSD is issue up to $283 million in general-obligation bonds to build and improve schools.
  • The newly rebuilt Alta View Elementary welcomed students for first time.
  • Crews near completion of renovation of Indian Hills Middle, the 13th and final project promised to voters at passage of the 2010 $250 million bond.   
  • CSD maintained  a AAA bond rating, resulting in savings to taxpayers
  • Seventy-eight percent of CSD elementary and middle schools received school-grade scores of an A or B, an increase of five percentage points over 2016. The number of elementary and middle schools to earn Cs and Ds fell by six percentage points. 
  • Eighty-three percent of CSD elementary schools and 75 percent of middle schools in CSD were above state average, according to PACE.  Sixty-six percent of elementary schools and 63 percent of middle schools showed higher growth than schools averaged statewide. 
  • Four CSD high schools were recognized for the number of students who take Advanced Placement courses. Brighton High ranked No. 8 out of all Utah high schools for the number of students who take and pass the tests. On the list of the Utah high schools with the highest AP participation rates, Corner Canyon ranked No. 5, Hillcrest No. 8 and Alta No. 10.
  • For the eighth year, CSD received the Meritorious Budget Award from the Association for School Business Officials International and the Distinguished Budget Presentation Award from the Government Finance Officers Association. 
  • The Canyons Education Foundation delivered some $104,000 to 16 teachers to fund innovative classroom projects.
  • Edgemont and Midvalley elementary schools celebrated 60th anniversaries.
  • Albion Middle’s Sandy LeCheminant is named Utah Assistant Principal of the Year.
  • Alta High's Rique Ochoa named Utah History Teacher of the Year.
  • Alta and Hillcrest musicans perform at Carnegie Hall in New York City. 
  • Canyons Education Foundation awards $11,000 in student scholarships at annual Spring Gala.
  • Three CSD students won categories at 56th annual Sterling Scholar competition. 
  • Two Hillcrest students and one Corner Canyon high school student earn National Merit Scholar status. Fourteen students from all five of CSD’s traditional high schools were named semifinalists.
  • CSD student athletes individual and team state championships in cross country, girls tennis, boys tennis, wrestling, girls track and field, swimming, boys soccer, baseball, theater and girls golf. 
  • Hillcrest’s production of “Les Miserables” wins Best Musical at the Utah High School Musical Theater Competition.
  • Groundbreaking events were held to mark start of work on rebuild of Hillcrest High and major renovation at Alta High. Work on a new Brighton High also has started.   
For Principal Brian McGill, the long-awaited renovation of Alta High is personal.

2d9861f7dfa371a841ce6730b641ed6c_XL.jpgTwenty-seven years ago, he walked the same halls that his students walk today — and he’s thrilled to see how the new additions will add to the culture and climate of the school. "Even as a student, one of the things I loved the most about this school is the sense of tradition and a drive for excellence,” McGill said at a June 7 groundbreaking ceremony to mark the start of construction. “It’s a place that doesn’t settle for second best, whether it’s in the arts, academics or on the athletic field. This is A-Town! It’s how it’s always been — and how it will always be."

To officially kick off construction, McGill, in front of a cheering crowd gathered for the groundbreaking celebration, hopped in a massive earth-mover and pulled some levers to make a giant steel claw scoop up and dump a bucket of sand.  

Joining McGill in celebrating the improvement project were members of the Hawks’ student council, drum line, color guard, and cheerleading squad. Also in attendance were parents, alumni, teachers, members of the Canyons Board of Education, Superintendent Dr. Jim Briscoe, other District administrators, Sandy Mayor Kurt Bradburn, Rep. LaVar Christensen, R-Draper, Senate President Wayne Niederhauser, R-Sandy, Rep. Robert Spendlove, R-Sandy, and Canyons Education Foundation Board Members Suzanne Harrison and Greg Summerhays.

Alta is among the first of several improvement projects to be completed with funds from a 2017 voter-approved bond. Work also starts this summer on rebuilds of Hillcrest and Brighton high schools. A groundbreaking for the Hillcrest project was held on May 31, and a celebration for the beginning of the Brighton project will take place at the school on Thursday, Aug. 9 at 5:30 p.m.

“With all of our schools, special care is taken to involve students, parents, teachers and the broader community in the planning process,” remarked Board President Sherril H. Taylor. “We take pride in building schools that reflect the communities they serve and that serve those communities well.”

The Alta High remodel will be completed in phases over two years so as to allow students to stay inside the building. “This is going to be a complex project to do,” said Canyons District’s Business Administrator Leon Wilcox, expressing appreciation for careful attention that VCBO Architects and Hughes Construction have given the project. “We’re basically building a school on top of a school, while holding school. That’s quite a challenge and these guys are going to do it while making sure everything is safe for all involved.”

Among major additions to take shape during the first phase of construction are a new field house and 1,400-seat Performing Arts Center, which will be configured to capitalize on mountain views. A new commons area will be a space where students can gather to make new traditions. The ceiling of the commons area will be lifted to 35 feet, and the new open space will be illuminated by natural light. Traffic flow will be improved, making it easier for students, employees, and visitors to safely enter and exit the campus. 

“From day one, the focus of the design has been about creating the best learning environment for our students and a great work environment for teachers,” McGill said. “I hope you’re as thrilled as I am with the plans for the school, which will stand as a testament to our community’s investment in education for at least the next 40 years.”

See more on Facebook or the Alta High groundbreaking photo album.

For Hillcrest Principal Greg Leavitt, the sight of a row of golden-tipped shovels on the school’s soccer field on Thursday was monumental.

The shovels marked the beginning of a three-year project, made possible by a $283 million bond approved by voters in November that will result in a new building to replace the current, 55-year-old structure. But the implements also reminded Leavitt of the importance of the hard work that goes into gaining an education.

“These shovels are signs of cultivation,” Leavitt said, "not of money, but of hearts and minds, of generations to come. The culture you’ve built here isn’t in the bricks and the desks, it’s in the community.”

A crowd of Hillcrest students, parents, and educators gathered at the school to celebrate the old building and mark the beginning of the new project. Also in attendance were members of the Canyons Board of Education, Superintendent Dr. Jim Briscoe, other District administrators, Midvale Mayor Robert Hale, members of the Midvale city council, Utah State Board of Education member Kathleen Riebe, Sen. Brian Zehnder, R-Cottonwood Heights, and Rep. Steve Eliason, R-Sandy. A group of alumni from the class of 1968, honored guests, including Board member and Husky alumni Mont Millerberg, in lifting the symbolic shovels to mark the beginning of the project.

“So many people have such great memories of going to school here, myself included,” Millerberg said. “We’re thrilled to be able to build a new school so the next generation of students can build memories here, too.”

A committee of Hillcrest administrators and District administrators is working with FFKR Architects and Westland Construction to create a new Hillcrest that will meet the demands of a 21st century education without sacrificing elements of the old building that are rooted in tradition, such as the inlaid “H” in the school’s atrium, and the DelMar Schick Stadium. The new school will have a new field house and performing arts complex, a commons area, emphasis on open spaces illuminated by natural light and collaborative spaces for students to gather and create new traditions.

Hillcrest is the first of several improvement projects to be completed in with funds from the 2017 bond, including new campuses at Union Middle, Midvalley and Peruvian Park elementary school and Brighton High and other locations. Alta will be remodeled extensively. Celebrations for the beginning of that project will take place at the school on June 7 at 5:30 p.m.

A new era of great heights is on the horizon for the Alta High Hawks. 

A groundbreaking celebration to cheer the start of work on a major two-year renovation at Alta High will be Thursday, June 7. All Alta students, teachers, parents, volunteers, alumni, and boosters are invited to the 5:30 p.m. reception and 6 p.m. ceremony at the school, 11055 S. 1000 East. 

No time has been wasted starting on the major renovation project, which is funded by the $283 million bond voters approved in November. Construction crews have already started site work on the northwest corner of campus where a 1,400-seat performing arts center will be built. By January 2020, the state-of-the-art center is scheduled to be complete and ready for productions.

Crews also will soon begin work on the Hawk Fieldhouse immediately north of the football stadium. By next summer, Alta students in activities ranging from football to marching band will be able to practice on an turf-covered indoor field. The second-level gallery of the fieldhouse, which will have a 30-foot ceiling, also will feature windows facing the football field so guests can watch Friday Night Lights action out of the chilly fall air.

In addition to the new performing arts center, the remodel also calls for the construction of a black box theater where the current auditorium is located. Among other upgrades, several offices will be relocated, the ceiling in the commons area will be raised to about 35 feet, and windows will be added on the front of the building and throughout the entrance to bring in an abundance of natural light. A security vestibule will guide visitors to the Main Office before they can gain access to the hallways. 

A new red, grey and glass façade on the front of the performing arts center will be replicated along the front of the current building, adding to the school’s curb appeal. In addition, a new marquee and electronic sign will be placed at the corner of 11000 South and 100 East to inform the community about Alta High events and student accomplishments. 

The renovation project is being designed by VCBO Architecture. The general contractor is Hughes Construction.
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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.

If rebuilding a high school is a major undertaking, try tackling three at once. This summer, construction crews will begin work on rebuilds of Brighton and Hillcrest high schools along with a major renovation of Alta High.

Screen Shot 2018-04-18 at 2.19.08 PM.pngArchitectural firms, with input from students, parents, employees and community leaders, have been hard at work shaping plans for the improvement projects — the largest and most complicated of many more to be financed by the $283 million bond approved by voters in 2017. School communities were given a sneak preview of the plans at Open House events in April, and the Board of Education has been receiving regular progress reports in open meetings.  


“This is such an exciting time for the District,” says Canyons District Board of Education President Sherril H. Taylor. “We’re not just building schools, we’re building communities. With the completion of these projects, all of our high schools will be brought up to a high-quality facilities standard. The safety and technological upgrades will improve the learning environments for generations of students, including the children of those now enrolled. It’s a momentous undertaking, and one that wouldn’t be possible without our patrons.”

The high schools will be built in phases over 2-3 years so as to allow them to remain in operation during the construction. Tackling all three at once is ambitious, but in order to keep costs contained, it was imperative to get to work as quickly as possible, says CSD’s Business Administrator Leon Wilcox.

Construction costs have soared, and are expected to continue to rise in the near future, Wilcox says. “We want to lock-in costs now on the largest and most complicated bond projects.”

Each project varies according to the priorities established by the school communities. But among common focuses are school safety, sustainability, and futuristic thinking. Wilcox says, “We’re building these schools to last and to accommodate the rapidly changing technological demands and instructional practices of modern classrooms.”

Careful attention is also being paid to preserve recent investments, such as the schools’ new football stadiums. Taking cues from research on the health and learning benefits of natural light, large windows and skylights are planned for commons areas and classrooms.

Since Canyons’ inception, the District has worked to address the safety and technological deficiencies of the aging buildings it received from a previous school district while also planning for growth. The 13th and final project financed with proceeds from a bond approved by voters in 2010 — the renovation of Indian Hills Middle — will be completed in time for start of the 2018-2019 school year.

With better insulating materials and sustainable building products, today’s schools are more energy efficient than those built 50, or even 20, years ago, which translates to lower energy 7aed15c0eec6780801cf15fe872dd63a_XL.jpgbills and an immediate cost savings for taxpayers.
 
As schools and school districts grow larger, however, to meet demands of growing student populations, those energy gains can be quickly wiped out. Yet Canyons District has managed to reduce its carbon footprint by 39 percent over the past eight years — even with the addition of 1 million square feet of new construction.
 
Since Canyons’ inception, the District has worked to address the life safety and technological deficiencies of the aging stock of buildings it received from a previous school district while also planning for growth. Among 13 major school improvement projects financed with proceeds from a bond approved by voters in 2010 were the construction of the first high school and middle school in Draper.
 
Yet, even with these new buildings and the added burden of having to power modern teaching tools, CSD’s conservation efforts have reduced carbon emissions by 39 percent since 2009. That’s the equivalent of taking 1,473 cars off the road per year, says Chris Eppler, CSD’s Energy Conservation Specialist.
 
The energy savings is partially due to a push to place mechanical systems in unoccupied mode when schools aren’t being used, while the rest is tied to heating, cooling and lighting upgrades, Eppler says. “It really comes down to doing things right. If you repair, build and operate schools correctly with an attention to quality, you will reduce energy consumption while keeping classrooms more comfortable.”
 
For his environmental stewardship, Eppler has received numerous awards, including being named an Energy Pioneer by Utah Gov. Gary Herbert. His conservation efforts have not only saved money but have resulted in better learning environments for thousands of children.
 
Among other steps CSD has taken over the years to cultivate healthy schools:
 
WATER USAGE: Canyons is doing its part to curb water usage; the district has about 370 acres of turf to maintain. With a $15,000 grant from the Central Utah Water Conservancy District, CSD hired and trained students to help survey, monitor and adjust school water schedules based on the root zone, type of grass, shade, soil type and evaporation rate. In July 2014, the district used 16.5 million gallons less than in July 2012 and 9.5 million gallons less than in July 2013. 

RADON TESTING: The District was recently honored by the Utah Division of Environmental Quality for its radon-testing program. CSD is the only district in Utah that regularly tests schools for radon with all buildings tested at least every two years.

NO IDLING: On Earth Day, 2016 Canyons became the first school district in Utah to go idle free at all of its campuses. The campaign kicked off early in the morning at Ridgecrest elementary school where no-idling signs were installed and students greeted drivers with placards, informational pamphlets and window clings to place in vehicles. Eventually, signs were placed at all Canyons schools and no-idling pledges were sent home with students, encouraging parents to voluntarily pledge to “turn their key and be idle free.”
When it comes to matters of money, Canyons District is in good hands. For the eighth ybudget.pngear 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? 170906 Hillcrest commons.jpg

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 received 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.

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 performanceScreen_Shot_2017-10-04_at_1.13.40_PM.png, writes Anjali Joseph, Ph.D. for the Center for Health Care Design. For these reasons, and more, hospitals are required by federal law to have windows in all patient rooms. he LSC deleted the requirement for windows or doors to the outside in patient sleeping rooms all-together, because the te

“When paired with evidenced-based instruction, well-designed school environments can positively influence student learning,” says CSD’s Instructional Supports Director Amber Roderick-Landward. 
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