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Sewage problems plague Mapleton school — and the bond measure that would have fixed everything is losing

A student at Mapleton High School in 2015.
A student at Mapleton High School in 2015.
Cyrus McCrimmon/The Denver Post

Not for the first time, students at Adventure Elementary School in the Mapleton school district faced hardship this week. The aging school’s sewage line backed up again Wednesday, forcing the relocation of classrooms and sending kids outside to eat lunch and play.

Adding insult to injury: at the very same time cleaners and plumbers tried and failed to solve the problem, election results were showing that a permanent fix is not likely coming.

Though votes in Adams County still were being counted Thursday, the Mapleton school district’s request that taxpayers approve a $150 million bond was being narrowly rejected. A portion of that money, $12.9 million, would provide a match for a state grant to replace Adventure Elementary with a new school.

“It’s been an ongoing issue,” Lynn Setzer, the district’s spokeswoman, said of the sewer problem. “Adventure Elementary was our number one priority for the bond.”

Some parents, upset about the school conditions, picked up their children early Thursday. Friday is a scheduled off day, and the district decided to cancel Monday’s classes, too.

Monday will be spent preparing in case the sewage rises again this school year. Staff will trade offices with classrooms in the south wing of the building, where sewage leaks up through the boiler room.

“They can just leave the building and can go somewhere else in the district to work,” Setzer said. “We can’t do that with kids.”

Adventure Elementary serves about 400 students from pre-kindergarten through sixth grade. About 75 percent of them qualify for free or reduced lunch, a measure of poverty.

This spring the state awarded Adventure Elementary a $6.6 million grant from BEST, the Building Excellent Schools Today program, to replace the school.

In the application for the grant, the district cited the sewage lines along other issues, including roof tiles falling because of water damage.

“Students and staff often cannot walk through the building without being overwhelmed by the smell of sewage, sometimes necessitating the relocation of students or staff,” the application states. “Whenever there is a sewer issue in the building, the school receives calls from parents regarding student complaints of asthma flare‐ups, stomachaches, and headaches.”

Without the $12.9 million in matching dollars, the district would not receive the grant.

Adams County still were counting ballots Thursday afternoon. By 6 p.m. the numbers still showed bond measure was losing by 104 votes out of 10,526 counted — a slim margin, but not enough to trigger a recount.

In the meantime, district officials said their insurance company may cover the major cost of repairing the sewage line, but the district is spending money hiring professional cleaners and making other accommodations.

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