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Midvale Journal

Canyons District to rebuild, renovate schools in 2018, continue offering student opportunities

Jan 01, 2018 02:55PM ● By Julie Slama

Hillcrest High School art students paint portraits of Syrian refugee orphans and through Memory Project, the children received the personal keepsakes. (Kari Bennett/Hillcrest High School)

With 58 percent approval by voters for a $283 million tax-rate-neutral bond in November’s election, Canyons School District will rebuild two high schools amongst 11 construction projects while continuing to offer many opportunities and services to students and the community.

This comes as the District is concluding the 13th and last project earmarked with the 2010 $250 million bond — Indian Hills Middle School. 

While students are currently housed in the former Crescent View Middle School, two new additions as well as windows and natural light are being added to the 37-year-old school.

“It’s exciting to see all the windows going up on all sides of the building and solar tubes being placed for the inner classrooms,” Principal Doug Graham said. “It’s definitely giving it a cleaner, lighter feel.”

With all exterior walls expected up by the end of 2017, crews were working on drywall and paint in the south end of the building. The construction is slated for completion by summer so the school will open to about 1,125 students in August.

“We will open up with 95 percent of our equipment new. We’ll replace our mismatched desks, chairs, tables and upgrade our equipment so when the kiddos walk in, they’ll realize this is a great place to be, a great place to learn and it will be fresh, clean and new,” he said.

The students, who gathered 10,521 items in late November for the Utah Food Bank, also will be able to embrace the heritage of the school as Native American designs will be in tile in the commons area and carried throughout the building. 

The new Indian Hills logo also will be illustrated on the cafeteria wall as well as the marquee. The logo suite is one of 18 that District graphic designer Jeff Olson has created for schools that need updating. He often ties in the new logo with remodeling or reconstruction, such as the completion of the new Alta View Elementary and Midvale Middle schools this year.

“The logos are marks of identity that I love to work on,” Olson said. “There’s emotional attachment to these logos. I’ve learned they mean a lot to people so now I make sure I talk to key people about the logo as I update it. Whenever I’ve redesigned logos, I create a logo suite so we can use the logos for different circumstances that fit the need, shape, color or size.”

In the past, Olson said many of the logos were left up to the schools that borrowed artwork or didn’t specify uses of it. Now with the redesigns, the logo copyrights will belong to the District. 

He recently completed Diamond Ridge’s logo after the school decided to call themselves the raptors.

“It’s a different mascot. People remember the different ones — the Beetdiggers, the Kittyhawks — so it’s really cool to be able to work on something unique. I made it edgy and fierce and high school appropriate,” he said.

Refining logos, making animals not as cartoons, and giving them clean, fresh looks are what he has done through several schools, including Ridgecrest Elementary, which held its 50th celebration this year, bringing back former teachers and students to sing the school song and look through yearbooks.

Bell View’s 50th offered a carnival-type atmosphere to current and former students and the community.

This coming year, Olson plans to work on logos for Silver Mesa, Crescent, Altara, Oak Hollow and East Sandy elementaries as well as look into logos for Sunrise Elementary and Jordan High. With the construction, the completion dates aren’t set as he will need to focus on a new logo for Brighton High as well as upcoming logos for the new elementary school that will be coming in Draper and possibly a White City logo with the rebuild.

However, the initial recommendation by the Canyons administration is to begin with the high school construction —new schools for Hillcrest and Brighton, major renovation for Alta and new classroom wing for Corner Canyon, said Superintendent Jim Briscoe.

Canyons School District Business Administrator Leon Wilcox said the goal with the high school projects is to have little disruption to students, who will remain onsite during construction. Construction is expected to begin by summer.

In the meantime, classes and activities will continue, including Hillcrest’s dedication to helping Syrian children. This past year involved 24 students in advanced placement and international baccalaureate programs who painted portraits of Syrian refugees in conjunction with an organization called the Memory Project. 

The Memory Project gave Hillcrest students photographs of the children to paint. Then the students gave the portraits to the Memory Project who delivered their artwork to the children. The high school students then received a video of the children receiving their artwork.

“As we watched the video, a few of the students got emotional,” Hillcrest art teacher Kari Bennett said. “It is a touching experience to know that you have made a child in such dire circumstances so happy. They all sat and watched with huge smiles on their faces and loved seeing how excited the kids were upon receiving their portraits.”

In addition, three students had replicas of their portraits included in a traveling exhibition featuring 70 students who had made portraits of Syrian children living in refugee camps in Jordan. 

Students already are asking if they can participate in 2018, Bennett said.

At the nearby new Midvale Middle School, which held its ribbon-cutting in August, finishing touches of the auditorium were being completed as the first play in the middle school was produced in November.

Students have much to celebrate with the move. Before moving into the new school building that was constructed on the same site as the former school, it was announced that a team of students won third place in the non-fiction worldwide junior division of the first-ever online Shakespeare Student Film Festival. The team’s film submission entitled, “Portia’s Example” beat 76 student teams from 22 countries across three continents.

Student director Elizabeth Martin said that the project was “massively more complicated” than she anticipated.

“There were costumes, props, schedule conflicts and struggles between our visions that we had to work out,” she said. “We put in a lot of detail, effort and time and it was clear how much work went into it. I learned a lot of people skills and how people think which has helped me now that I’m in high school in a different atmosphere. It’s been easier to work in groups and meet people.”

Theatre teacher Bethany Lenhart said that the student-produced film was evaluated in three rounds by students in Germany as well as professional Shakespearean directors, actors and professional filmmakers.

Elizabeth said that when it was announced they were the top film from North and South America, she found it hard to focus on her schoolwork the rest of the day.

“I couldn’t believe we were going on into the international round. I realized they appreciated how much work goes on behind the scenes,” she said.

With the announcement of their third-place international finish, Lenhart said students celebrated.

“They were screaming, jumping up and down and teary eyed,” she said. “They couldn’t believe it. It was a great experience where they had an authentic audience who could see the really hard work they dedicated to the project.”

Their classmate, Zach Jessop also had reason to celebrate in June as he placed fourth in the National History Day competition in Washington, D.C. His documentary entitled, “Each Life is Worth a World: Gil and Eleanor Kraus and the Rescue of Fifty Jewish Children From Nazi Germany,” was also chosen as the Outstanding Junior Division Entry from Utah.

Zach’s documentary tells the story of an American Jewish couple who went into Nazi Germany and were able to save 50 children from the Holocaust. He interviewed one of the children rescued as well as other survivors’ now adult children and others who lived in Germany under the Nazi regime.

Next for Zach is an opportunity to share his film at the Utah State Capitol on Jan. 24 for History on the Hill day.

Zach wasn’t the only Canyons student who went to Washington, D.C. Students from both Alta and Corner Canyon attended the presidential inauguration and Alta High’s marching band participated in the national Memorial Day parade.

“D.C. was just fantastic,” Alta marching band director Caleb Shabestari said. “We turned the corner on Constitution Boulevard by the National Archives and thousands, maybe upward to 5,000 just there, were watching the parade on the stairs. I’d say there were 20,000 to 30,000 along the entire mile route. We marched under a massive flag that was hanging from a crane and finished right in front of the White House.”

In addition to upcoming parades in Salt Lake City, Sandy and Draper this year, the marching band will be joined by the entire Alta music department to go on tour to New York City this coming April. 

Six Corner Canyon Peer Leadership Team members attended the national Community Anti-Drug Coalition of America conference in Washington, D.C. where they learned leadership skills and ways to approach substance abuse and bullying situations.

“We learned how to analyze our community to address issues that need to be improved,” student Nic D’Amico said. “We want to provide more service and take the initiative as PLT members to help our community.”

Already, the PLT has done that with receiving the Youth Service America 9/11 Service Project Grant. They assembled boxes of goodies and delivered them to Draper police and fire departments as well as made blankets and delivered food donated from a school-wide food drive to veterans and their families.

“Only 50 schools in the nation were awarded this grant. It’s been incredible to receive it and plan a school-wide service project,” said senior Amber Wood, who is PLT’s school community representative and will coordinate the Global Youth Service Day for the school in April.

Brighton High Peer Leadership Team, which is in its first year, also provided baskets for the local police and fire departments on 9/11. They are continuing to look at other opportunities to serve from tutoring to helping with the elderly.

“When we work together, we can make a difference,” Brighton teacher and PLT adviser April Ball said.

Working together has made a difference to many others throughout the District. Several schools and school groups have received donations of clothing, food and personal hygiene items to provide students and their families in need. Students who are active in Latinos in Action, National Honor Society, international baccalaureate and other organizations have provided tutoring for their peers or younger students. 

At Jordan High, with a greater diversity of students expected with boundary changes, students have been welcomed with the #DigDiversity Project. 

“We wanted to make sure the refugee students knew they had an inviting, safe place at Jordan High,” English and social studies teacher Shannon Callister said. “(Students) are wanting a better environment for the school and have welcomed everyone.”

This has extended to supporting families for the past year, Spanish-speaking parents have been invited to attend Puertas Abiertas or open-door meetings with assistant principal Roberto Jimenez to learn more about Jordan High.

“We held the meeting as a way for these parents to become familiar with the school, its resources and key people for them to talk to about their students’ classes,” Jimenez said.

Callister said that the school is becoming more multi-cultural and students are embracing it.

“We’re making a change and already it feels different,” she said. “It’s been fun to see students get excited.”

Across the district, families are supporting an effort that began by both student Kaleb Broderick who attended Ridgecrest and parent Cindy Boyer at Altara — a campaign to make the District’s schools idle-free.

“Besides educating students, I feel we have some responsibility for their health, and their future health,” said Superintendent Jim Briscoe, who supported the Board of Education in making the District’s schools idle-free. 

Since then, Altara Elementary has continued to hold an idle-free week celebration.

“We want students to talk to their parents so they understand that even by doing a little, such as not idling, they are contributing to promoting healthier air,” Boyer said. “We are giving a path for them to follow and I hope to see every school embrace being idle-free.”

Safety also is a district-wide concern of the 34,000 students. This year, the District emergency management committee — which includes risk managers and crisis counselors — has updated its emergency plans that include school drills and preparedness, said Canyons spokeswoman Kirsten Stewart.

“We’ve taken what we learned and improved upon our existing plans,” she said. 

Each drill, such as shelter-in-place, hazmat, fire, earthquake and bomb, will be practiced according to a schedule so the team can evaluate what works and how to improve upon it, Stewart said.

In emergencies, communication with parents through Skylert will continue and she encourages parents to follow the Facebook or Twitter feed for additional information. In addition, emergency tip sheets are posted at all schools.

As part of this, all elementaries are becoming communication centers with Salt Lake County and have emergency supply tubs in place to help network the community and responders. Canyons’ middle and high schools will continue with its Red Cross agreement to provide shelters, when necessary, she said.

“Learning can only happen in environments where students feel safe and well cared for and that is the aim of our District,” Stewart said.

Altara Elementary teacher Joani Richardson, who received the Huntsman Award for Educational Excellence, and other teachers throughout the district, were provided a new salary boost of an average 6.5 percent this year, and have the opportunity to continue their own learning through professional development and certifications. About 26 percent of teachers have earned level-one certification in the instructional use of technology, which is about halfway to the point the Canyons Board of Education would like the District to be in 2019, Canyons spokesman Jeff Haney said.

Outside the classroom, teachers have continued to support students in striving for success, he said. Among the numerous awards students have achieved, four of Canyons District’s traditional high schools have been recognized for the number of students who take Advanced Placement courses and two students won 2017 National Merit scholarships. In technology, Jordan High’s robotics team won the 2017 Utah Regional FIRST Robotics competition and a team from Hillcrest High won the STEM Entrepreneur Award at the 2017 High School Utah Entrepreneur Challenge and two Midvale Middle School students were part of a team that won best prototype at the same competition and received the Presidential Youth Environmental Award. 

Twenty-four students representing all five of Canyons traditional high schools won superior honors at state choir, band and orchestra events. Hillcrest High took the state crown in 4A theater. Thirty-four Canyons students took first place in state career and technical education competitions, including two Hillcrest students who won top honors at the national Future Business Leaders of America contest. 

Helping Hillcrest students get to this stage has been the addition of the summer Husky Strong Academy to give entering freshmen a jump on high school and put them on the path to excel. The program, coupled with daily mentoring and social and behavioral supports, has contributed to a 10 percent increase in the number of Husky freshmen on track to graduate. It has earned Canyons the honor of being named a 2017 District of Distinction by District Administration Magazine and has served as a model for Jordan High’s AVID Summer Bridge Program, which served 45 freshmen in its inaugural summer academy this past year.

Hillcrest administrators this fall created Taco Friday, where students with perfect attendance are rewarded with free tacos. In the first months of the program, more than 1,800 tacos were awarded and attendance had increased about 0.4 percent overall from October 2016 to October 2017, said Principal Greg Leavitt.

“Every kid is in a different situation, but we’re able to help students and reward them with incentives,” he said. “We want students in class so they are learn important information that is relevant and we’re celebrating that they’re learning.”

Taking that a step for further learning is the goal of the Step2theU new early college pathway program created by Alta High Principal Brian McGill.

“Through taking general education classes in the summer between their junior and senior year, then college math during their senior year and more classes the summer after their high school graduation, (students) can receive a general education certificate from the University of Utah,” McGill said. “The focus is directed at the transition to college and getting those students the first years of college while they are in high school. This partnership is just giving them an option to be successful in their education.”