If the forecast holds, a cold front is expected to roll into Salt Lake this weekend accompanied by rain, and possibly snow. To the end of preparing our community for winter, here is a guide to how Canyons District will communicate information about school cancellations or delayed starts. 

Please remember: Unless extreme weather creates unsound traveling conditions, schools operating under the Canyons District umbrella will remain open on scheduled school days.

Why keep schools open during snowstorms?
Our 34,000 students count on us to deliver a quality education in a safe, welcoming environment. Unscheduled school closures disrupt learning and place a burden on parents who work full time and can’t easily be home to supervise their children. Neighborhood schools also are a primary source of breakfast and lunch for many of our students. 

What if I’d prefer to keep my child home? 
While school-closure decisions will be made in the best interest of a school community, the District respects the rights of parents and guardians to decide what’s best for children in their care. 

How will I know if school is canceled or delayed?
Canyons District has established the following communications policies in the event of a school closure:

Announcements and information: Canyons District will employ its website, the Skylert emergency-communication system, and Facebook and Twitter (@canyonsdistrict) to alert parents about school closures. Parents and employees should listen to Wasatch Front radio and television stations for school-closure information.

What we will tell you: The District will communicate one of three messages: 1) Day and date a school is closed; 2) Day and date a school is starting late; 3) and day and date schools will be dismissed.

Telephones: Families are encouraged to call the District Office at 801-826-5000  for the latest decisions on school closures due to inclement weather. Please be patient, as the District Office may experience a high volume of phone calls on these days. Parents also may call their child's school.  

How we decide: School closures will be announced when authorized by the Canyons Superintendent of Schools or his designee after consulting with senior staff members. The National Weather Service and other state, county and city agencies also may be consulted.

Closures are for one day only: All announcements are for one day only. No announcement means schools will be open and operate as usual.

Emergency plans: Families are encouraged to establish an emergency plan for their children in the event that schools are closed, have a delayed start or dismissed early. Parents are urged to instruct their children where to go or what to do if a parent is not at home.

Bus stops: Parents are asked to meet their children at bus stops when buses are running on delayed or emergency schedules.

Make-up days: Days lost because of inclement weather are made up on Washington and Lincoln Day Recess days and/or Spring Recess.
The first school day in Canyons is rolling up quickly — students in first- through 12th grades return to classes on Wednesday, Aug. 19 — and the District’s Transportation Department is hard at work preparing for the 2015-2016 school year.

Utah laws governing transportation funding may affect some Canyons District students, particularly middle school-aged children, so parents are encouraged to review their child's transportation plans for the coming school year.   

Canyons District receives state funding for busing provided to students enrolled in kindergarten through sixth grade who live at least 1.5 miles from school and to students enrolled in grade seven through 12 who live at least 2 miles from school. 

This means that some middle school students who qualified for busing last year may not qualify again this year because they have advanced to the seventh grade and must live more than 2 miles away from the school to receive the services. 

Also, in the past, Canyons District has spent some $1.3 million to provide unreimbursed transportation services to neighborhoods where it would have been hazardous for the children to walk to school.

This year, Canyons District has slightly reduced the number of within-walking-distance bus routes that are designated as hazardous based on the risk to our pedestrian students as they negotiate the roads. Improvements made to walkways or roads, or the addition of crosswalks and crossing guards, have led to the removal of routes from the “hazardous route” list for the coming school year.

However, students who don’t qualify for transportation services are invited to submit a request for busing services so they can ride with their qualifying siblings or neighbors — if there is space available on the nearest bus. The “space-available permits” will be granted on a first-come, first-served, space-available basis.

Permit applications will be made available at schools at 8 a.m. Tuesday, Aug. 4. The permit applications must be submitted to the school where the student child is enrolled. 

Families will be notified about whether they have received a permit to ride the bus by Sept. 14. 

The Canyons District Transportation Department is akin to the U.S. Postal Service:  Neither rain, snow, sleet nor hail will keep them from their appointed rounds.
Despite the rough recent road conditions that correspond with Utah's blustery winter months, the employees in the CSD Transportation Department have made sure that children arrive at school safe, secure and ready to start the school day.
“With little fanfare, and under sometimes-difficult circumstances, our bus drivers and dispatchers provide an invaluable service,” says Dr. Bob Dowdle, the Assistant Superintendent who works with Director Bruce Young to oversee CSD’s transportation services. “On mornings when the roads are slick and icy, they do their jobs without complaint.  They truly are the unsung heroes of our District on snowy, cold days.”
Regardless of the weather, there are many things the transportation department does — from maintaining some 200 buses with the latest in technology to drawing bus routes to driving roughly 1,004,000 miles in a school year. But for its myriad responsibilities, the department’s No. 1 priority is simple: Get children from here to there in safety.  “Our main concern is to transport children from home to school and school to home safely,” said Young. “That’s the first thing that transportation does.”

As simple as that charge is, the logistics of transporting about 15,600 students every day can be complicated — especially in the winter months — and there are many forces at work to make it happen.

First, there are the drivers. Every employee in the transportation department, including Young and his office employees, has a Commercial Driver's License. That way, anyone can fill in if a regular driver calls in sick at the last minute. But aside from having a CDL, the bus drivers of Canyons District have a variety of qualifications. Some have high school diplomas and GEDs, but others have bachelor’s and master’s degrees. One driver even has a Ph.D. in sociology.

Some days the drivers start working at 5:30 a.m. to take kids to school, then they make another run from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. for younger students, then another from 2:30-5:30 p.m. for the end of the day — and that’s not to mention field trips.  On days when snow is falling, Young makes rounds in his truck at 4:30 a.m. to advise the superintency on whether the roads are too difficult to traverse in order to start school at the regular time.

Young estimates that CSD’s buses go on about 4,000 field trips in a nine-month school year, and they use about $120,000 worth of diesel and compressed natural gas per month. Keeping the buses cleaned and working is an essential part of the department’s goal to transport children safely. CSD’s largest buses hold 84 passengers, are 40 feet long and weigh 32,000 pounds. Despite the fact that the buses are so big, and painted bright yellow, accidents are sometimes caused throughout the year by other drivers who are distracted. Almost all of the repairs to broken buses — including small repairs — are completed in the District’s Bus Barn, saving the District money.  Also, Dowdle says that, thanks to the diligence of the department’s employees, the number of accidents is low — and the cost per accident has steadily declined.

The buses are fitted with the latest in technology to ensure the safety of both the bus driver and children on the bus. Every bus has four cameras with audio recording and a two-week-long memory on board to monitor what takes place on the bus. The buses are also equipped with a Zonar system, which relays information about the bus’ location, speed, engine health and exactly what time it arrived and left each bus stop — in real time. This year, each bus is also being fitted with a panic button that drivers can use in emergency situations.

As the drivers and buses are constantly moving, the employees at the transportation department make up the final, essential part of keeping children safe. Mechanics routinely inspect and keep the buses working, dispatch workers communicate with drivers to provide valuable information, and other employees conduct frequent trainings to make sure drivers are current on all necessary certifications. Young himself occasionally follows behind drivers to make sure they obey traffic laws, such as stopping at train tracks. And every year, the routing department organizes a complex system of bus routes and bus stops, taking into consideration boundary changes, grade reconfiguration and state law. Together, each employee works hard to make sure that while each facet of the transportation department functions smoothly, the responsibility to keep children safe is always their first priority.