You’re busy, and want to get involved in your child’s school. Where should you start?

Dr. Angela Wilkinson, Sunrise Elementary Principal.
Dr. Angela Wilkinson, Sunrise Elementary Principal.

It’s been said that parents are their child’s first, and most important, teacher — a truism reinforced by research showing how important a strong school-to-home connection is to student success.

But what does it mean to be involved in your child’s education? Parents are busy and can’t do it all: check the backpack, monitor all of their children’s daily assignments, help with homework, attend school events, and volunteer in the classroom. So, where should they start? What questions should they be asking? How can they make the most of parent-teacher conferences? What barriers, fears, or misunderstandings get in the way of parents and teachers working together to help kids thrive?

Last year, Connect Canyons interviewed some PTA representatives to discuss the many ways families can connect with their neighborhood school.  This year, we decided to get the perspective of a school principal: Sunrise Elementary Principal Dr. Angela Wilkinson.

Speaking from her perspective as a career educator, Dr. Wilkinson shared some of the ways Canyons District schools are building bridges with families. During the pandemic, for example, schools found ways to host parent-teacher conferences remotely, which actually helped boost participation. It’s a time-saving innovation that schools are still putting to use this year.

Dr. Wilkinson also offered great insight into how parents can focus their efforts, even touching on questions parents should be asking to understand how their children’s learning is progressing so they can better support learning at home.

After all, it’s one thing to help with homework. It’s another to know that your child is missing foundational concepts — such as memorizing “math facts” (addition, subtraction and times tables) — so you can spend your time on what matters most.

“We appreciate parent involvement in the schools. We couldn’t do it without our parent volunteers,” Dr. Wilkinson said. “Last year with our not being to have volunteers in the buildings [due to state COVID19-related health protocols], it’s made you appreciate it even more.”

CSD Makes Plans to Create Own Social-Emotional Learning Curriculum

Canyons Superintendent Dr. Rick Robins at the Tuesday, Sept. 21 meeting of the Canyons Board of Education announced an administrative action to suspend the use of the current social-emotional curriculum being used in Canyons District elementary and middle schools.

While reiterating his support of social-emotional learning, Dr. Robins stressed that the plan isn’t to abandon the teaching of crucial life skills and character traits, but to improve upon the curriculum being used in Canyons’ schools.

The current curriculum, called “Second Step” will be on hold until Tuesday, Oct. 5, when Board members and the Administration can fully discuss the issue after it has been appropriately noticed on a public-meeting agenda.

At that Board meeting, the Administration intends to propose a timeline for the creation of Canyons’ own curriculum by in-house instructional experts.

“Since the onset of the pandemic, with the Board’s and Administration’s steadfast commitment to in-person learning, Canyons District has prioritized not only the physical safety of students but also their social and emotional needs,” Superintendent Dr. Rick Robins says. “This past year has brought new challenges with the spread of new COVID-19 variants and shifting health guidance. But our goal of supporting students’ overall wellness has been consistent throughout, and something I continue to wholeheartedly support.”

The philosophy behind social-emotional learning, which is required by Utah State Board of Education rule, is to engender trust, respect, and unity. But the District is finding that the Second Step curriculum, although supported by many, has links to information that may not meet the community’s expectations and needs.

Pending Board approval, Robins hopes to have an in-house social-emotional curriculum completed by the end of winter break or early January.

More information about CSD’s next steps will be made available after decisions are made about the SEL curriculum that will be provided in CSD schools.

Canyons District Joins Nationwide Lawsuit Against Vape Maker Juul Labs

Canyons School District is joining a mass-action federal lawsuit against Juul Labs, alleging the e-cigarette maker has downplayed the health risks of its products in marketing campaigns to minors, which has led to an increase in vaping on school campuses. 

About 500 school districts across the country, including Tooele, Provo, Ogden, Jordan, Salt Lake, Washington, South Sanpete, and now Canyons, have become a part of the suit, according to Joel Wright with Kirton McConkie, the law firm representing Utah’s school districts. The suit has been filed in U.S. District Court of the Northern District of California where Juul is headquartered. The trial is scheduled to begin in March. 

Since their introduction to the U.S. market in 2006, electronic cigarettes, or vaping devices, with their colorful designs and sweet flavors named after popular desserts, candy, and fruit, have grown increasingly popular, especially among teenagers and young adults. The Utah Department of Health estimates that nearly 25 percent of Utah students in eighth, 10th, and 12th grades have tried vaping. 

In Canyons District in 2019, there were 219 school office referrals for e-cigarette use or possession. That’s up from about 35 referrals in 2010. 

“With this lawsuit we hope to bring attention to the toll vaping is taking on the health of our school children,” said Canyons General Counsel Dan Harper, prior to the Canyons Board of Education’s decision on Sept. 7 to move forward with the lawsuit. “It’s also having an impact on schools, which have diverted staff resources for vaping cessation and education programming. These products have been marketed as safe alternatives to smoking. But they have reignited tobacco use among a population that had never smoked, and we feel it’s important to bring this issue to light.”   

If successful, the districts that join the suit could receive money from Juul, valued at $10 billion, to pay for education initiatives, student-supervision personnel, cessation counselors, and vaping detectors, among other tools and programs for vaping-prevention efforts.

Vaping devices heat up a liquid to create an aerosol vapor, which the user inhales. Designed to resemble USB flash drives, keychains or lipstick tubes, they are easy to conceal and don’t emit the strong odor associated with conventional combustion cigarettes. It’s not uncommon for students to use the devices in school bathrooms, locker rooms, outside school campuses, or even in classrooms.

recent study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control study found that 99 percent of e-cigarettes sold in the United States contain nicotine, which can harm the adolescent brain, particularly the parts of the brain that control attention, learning, and mood and impulse control. They can also contain “other harmful substances” and put young people at risk for future addiction problems, the CDC says.

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