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.

Architectural 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. At Open Houses in the coming weeks, community members will have a chance to preview the still-developing plans (see the schedule of events below).

“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.

Everyone is invited to attend the community Open Houses to showcase plans for the high schools. There will be presentations by architects, and an opportunity to submit questions and comments. The dates, times and locations are as follows:

Brighton High School
Tuesday, April 17 at 6 p.m. in the Auditorium
Featuring MHTN Architects

Hillcrest High School 
Wednesday, April 18 starting at 6 p.m. in the Auditorium
Featuring FFKR Architects

Alta High School
Wednesday, April 25, 7-9 p.m. in the Auditorium
VCBO Architecture
High school graduation is a rite of passage, a time for celebrating academic achievement, and an opportunity to spotlight our exceptional students and faculty. It’s one of those can’t-miss events, so mark your calendars now!

The District’s five traditional high schools will all perform commencement rites on Tuesday, June 5.

Ceremonies for special programs and schools are held on separate dates in May and June. Following are the dates, locations and times:

  • Alta High School — June 5, 10 a.m., Huntsman Center at University of Utah
  • Brighton High School — June 5, 2 p.m., Maverik Center
  • Corner Canyon High — June 5, 2 p.m., Huntsman Center at University of Utah
  • Hillcrest High School — June 5, 10 a.m., Maverik Center
  • Jordan High School — June 5, 6 p.m., Maverik Center
  • Diamond Ridge — June 6, 7 p.m., Mt. Jordan Middle
  • South Park School — May 31, 8 a.m. at Utah State Prison 
  • Entrada — June 26, 7 p.m., Jordan High School
  • Jordan Valley School — June 1, 11 a.m., Jordan Valley School
  • Canyons Transitions Academy — June 6, noon, Professional Development Center in CSD’s East Administration Building
It was a big night for arts education. Three talented Canyons District artists walked away winners from the 2018 Sterling Scholar Awards, an academic excellence contest sponsored by the Deseret News and KSL Broadcast Group.

Brighton High’s Sofia Rahaniotis was named Utah’s Sterling Scholar in the Speech, Theatre and Arts category, Alta High’s Addie Wray won the Music and category, and Hillcrest High’s Kara Komarnitsky won in Dance. They were joined on the podium by two Hillcrest Huskies who were named runners-up in the academic-excellence program: Sterling Larson in the World Languages category and Alex Sun in Science.

Rahaniotis, Ray and Komarnitsky were among 11 CSD students to be named finalists in Utah's Sterling Scholar competition, which honors students “for the pursuit of excellence in scholarship, leadership and citizenship.”  They each received $2,500 scholarships, and runners-up received $1,000 scholarships.

A member of the Brighton’s nationally-recognized Model United Nations team, Rahaniotis was previously awarded Brigham Young University’s Model United Nations Distinguished Delegation Award and Peer Award. She has a 4.0 grade point average, ranks first in her class, and is senior class President. She has volunteered for the Road Home homeless shelter, the American Red Cross, the Tyler Robinson Foundation, and many other charities. “To learn from, teach and inspire through art for which I feel such indescribable passion is to me the pinnacle of happiness,” she says. “I’m among those who are fortunate enough to experience such unmatched artistic joy and for this, I am truly thankful.”

Komarnitsky has performed for Salt Lake’s Repertory Dance Theatre and has been the President of Hillcrest’s dance company for three years. She spent more than 50 hours with the Washington State Trails Association rebuilding a handicap access trail, she tutors students in biology and French and holds a black belt in taekwondo. “Challenge is the method to reach future growth,” she says, “and dance challenges me to grow in different ways every day.”

Alta’s Addie Wray has played the leading role in three musicals. By age 11, she had performed in two professional shows. She has donated her time to support programs for people with special needs and says, “Vocal performing is something I was born to do, that I live, love and breathe eternally.” 
Canyons students will have a rare opportunity to learn from a Pulitzer Prize-winning historian this Thursday, Jan. 11, at Alta High as part of the school's eighth annual history colloquium.

Alan Taylor is known for his expertise in American history, as the Thomas Jefferson Chair in American History at the University of Virginia and a former Harmsworth Professor at the University of Oxford. He has received several prestigious awards, including the Pulitzer Prize and the Bancroft Prize, as well as being a finalist for the National Book Award and George Washington Prize. The famed author and educator has been a keynote speaker at several national conventions, but this week, he'll be spending a day in Canyons at the request of Alta history teacher Rique Ochoa.

"This is designed specifically for the kids," Ochoa said. "Teachers attend and get a lot out of it, but the reality is, I designed this specifically for our students. It's like, 'If you can't get Mohammed to the mountain, bring the mountain to Mohammed.'"
alan_taylor_inline.jpg Ochoa established the colloquium at Alta in 2011 as a way to expose Canyons students to distinguished history experts from across the country. Over the years, various preeminent educators, including three Pulitzer Prize winners, have visited the home of the Hawks, making multiple presentations about their books and sitting down with a small group of students from Ochoa's class. Each time, other schools are invited to participate and learn from experts who teach at the country's top universities. Some 250 students and teachers from Jordan high and Brighton will attend the symposium, and 15 of Ochoa's honors students will have a sit-down lunch with the professor, with a unique question and answer opportunity.

"It really is a unique experience to be able to meet these people," Ochoa said. "Speakers really are intrigued by the fact that this is designed for high school kids. If it was for college, they wouldn't be as nearly as receptive to doing it. They think this is just over the top to do this for a high school."

Ochoa asked Taylor to come last year, but the author was unable, as he was working as a visiting professor at Oxford at the time. Taylor's books cover slavery, the American Revolution, colonial Virginia, American colonies, native Americans and the early settlement of the country. Of all of the speakers who have come to Alta to speak as part of the colloquium, Ochoa says Alta students are especially lucky to hear from Taylor.

"I get excited about everybody," Ochoa says, "but this one is truly a prize catch."

What: Alan Taylor will discuss two separate books about colonial American history.
When: Thursday, Jan. 11 at 8:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.
Where: Alta High School, 11055 S. 1000 East in Sandy
Rique Ochoa’s approach to teaching is simple: stick with what you love.

As an Alta High history teacher, Ochoa loves to tell stories. He loves to make history relatable to his students, and he loves to expose them to the experts in his field. That’s what has motivated him to teach for nearly 40 years, coach the debate team and establish a one-of-a-kind colloquium at Alta. It’s also the reason Ochoa has been selected as the Utah History Teacher of the Year by the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History.

“School has got to be fun,” Ochoa says. “I think one of the greatest mistakes history teachers make is they forget why they liked history in the first place.”

Ochoa likes to teach his students about World War II by sharing photos of family relatives who served in the war. He shares stories about the Great Depression by describing what his father experienced during that time. When he teaches his students the story of Paul Revere, he tells them about William Dawes and Samuel Prescott, two other riders who went farther than Revere but received none of the acclaim. Ochoa knows his students love details. They love to be able to relate to history. 

To that end, Ochoa established a Social Studies Colloquium at Alta eight years ago so he could give his students opportunities to learn from other experts on history, from prestigious professors to Pulitzer Prize winners. Next year, Ellen Taylor, who won the Pulitzer Prize twice for history, is on the list of speakers who will come to the school.

“It’s just incredible,” Ochoa says. “It’s a very unique program and our kids just really get to participate and learn an awful lot more than they would any place else.”

Ochoa has followed other creative ways to expose his students to experiences they would not otherwise have. When he encountered difficulties getting his students to travel to various debate tournaments that required overnight stay, Ochoa established Canyons District as the host of one of the few available Tournament of Champions qualifying debate locations in the West.

Ochoa was selected as the Utah History Teacher of the Year by a committee of history educators, education professionals, and former winners of the Gilder Lehrman History Teacher of the Year award. The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History is a non-profit organization dedicated to history education through high school. As the Utah History Teacher of the Year, Ochoa is now eligible to be considered as the National History Teacher of the Year in the fall.

“Mr. Ochoa has been and continues to be a strong pillar of support for not only our Social Studies Department, but across the spectrum of our school,” Alta Principal Brian McGill said. “Since the inception of Alta High School, Mr. Ochoa has brought … a zest and passion for serving students inside and outside the classroom, serving in such programs as Debate and Academic Decathlon. He is an integral part of Alta High School, and we are fortunate to have him as a part of our faculty. He is most deserving of this high regard and honor."
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