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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Canyons School District students continue to outperform their Utah peers on most of the SAGE tests, in some areas by as many as 12 percentage points.

“The data reflect the quality of our teachers and the hard work of our students, as well as the District’s investment in research-based instructional practices,” said CSD’s Research and Assessment Director Dr. Hal Sanderson.

State SAGE results for the 2017-2018 school year are available for all school districts on the Utah State Board of Education website. 

Elementary Schools (grades 3-5) 
In elementary schools, Canyons is well above the state average in all subject areas and grades. The District made gains in 4 of 8 elementary tests. The following shows the percentage of elementary students who tested proficient in 2017-2018:

English: CSD (58 percent), state (46 percent)
Math: CSD (62 percent), state (51 percent)
Science: CSD (59 percent), state (50 percent)

Middle Schools (grades 6-8)
In middle schools, Canyons is well above the state average in 5 of 6 tested areas.   Middle school science results will not be released until November 2018.  New middle school science content standards require new proficiency cut-scores to be developed by Utah educators.  The following shows the percentage of middle school students who tested proficient in 2017-2018:

English: CSD (55 percent), state (46 percent) 
Math: CSD (50 percent), state (43 percent)
Science: To be released in November

High Schools
In 2018 SAGE was administered for the last time. Canyons District's high school scores for the 2017-2018 school year can’t reliably be compared to the state average, because for the first time, CSD’s 11th graders were not required to take the test. They took the ACT college entrance exam, instead.

This is the last year for SAGE tests as the state transitions to a new testing vendor. Utah will debut RISE tests for students in grades 3-8 while students in grades 9 and 10 will take the Utah Aspire Plus exam in the 2018-19 school year. High school juniors will continue to take the ACT exam.
Eighteen Canyons District students have advanced in a rigorous race to claim one of the country’s most prestigious scholarships for high school seniors. 

Students from Alta, Brighton, Corner Canyon and Hillcrest high schools today were announced as semifinalists in the 2019 National Merit Scholar competition.  

The high-achieving CSD students join about 16,000 other top scholars who remain eligible to vie for 7,500 scholarships worth $31 million.

The roster of semifinalists was chosen from a field of 1.6 million students at more than 22,000 high schools. The nationwide pool of semifinalists represents fewer than 1 percent of U.S. high school seniors. The number is proportional to the state's percentage of the national total of graduating seniors.

Candidates for National Merit Scholar awards must write an essay and take a prequalifying test, as well as submit SAT scores. Also required is a detailed scholarship application in which the students must provide academic-record and community-involvement information. The students must note their leadership experiences, voluntarism, employment and any other honors received, too.

The finalists and winners of 2019 scholarships will be announced in the spring

The students and their schools are: 

Alta High
  • Abigail Hardy 
  • Joshua Mickelson 
  • Joshua Pomeroy
Brighton High
  • Alex Fankhauser 
  • Sofia Maw 
  • Jenna Rupper
Corner Canyon
  • Sebastian Lee 
  • Peter Oldham
Hillcrest High
  • Alex Chang 
  • Anthony Grimshaw 
  • Bryan Guo 
  • Saey Kamtekar 
  • Emily Langie 
  • Hongying Liu 
  • Warren McCarthy 
  • Landon Nipko 
  • Eric Yu 
  • Alan Zhao
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