Raw sewage in Columbine classrooms one among many ongoing repair issues

Just four days into the new school year, Columbine High School students noticed sewage seeping under the wall and into their English classroom, feet from where they were seated. Students in that classroom and two other affected classrooms were quickly evacuated to a different part of the building so maintenance personnel could address the situation.

It turned out that sewage had backed up through the sinks into two science classrooms and also damaged drywall in the English Department office.

A photo posted to Facebook shows damaged drywall that was removed after a sewage leak at Columbine High School. Photo by James Woodruff. Used with permission.

Unfortunately, the Aug. 21 event isn’t the first time this has happened at this aging school in Littleton.

Columbine High School was built in 1973 and many areas of the school have never been renovated, explained Principal Scott Christy. Aging pipes are one of the main culprits for leaks.

For example, in the girls’ locker room, sewage has backed up in pipes and come up through the floor drains. In another incident this spring, a sewage pipe between the two floors of the building leaked sewage into a classroom.

Without a major renovation, the best the school can do is continue patching leaks and making repairs.

Damage to classrooms ‘a major inconvenience’

Students, staff members and families took the story of the most recent sewage spill to social media. Some posted that the sewage smell permeated the entire building.

Several photos, including the one featured at the top of this story, were taken by a student just before the class evacuated.

The bigger impact came from the temporary loss of learning space.

The damage to classrooms “was a major inconvenience,” Christy said. It required English classes to move to other classrooms for the rest of the week. Science classes were relocated to a Family and Consumer Science classroom.

Ongoing repairs and inequities

Ongoing repairs are normal in aging schools, Christy said.

“There are always things we’re having to fix or replace,” he explained.

According to Jeffco Schools, Columbine High School’s facility condition index (FCI) is 21 percent, which puts it in the “fair” category. Schools rated “good” have an FCI score of less than 10 percent. Schools in the “poor” category have an FCI of more than 30 percent.

The Columbine High School facility fact sheet states that plumbing fixtures, piping, and an aging HVAC system would all be replaced if voters approve a $567 million bond package that will be on the November ballot.

However, the negative impact on Columbine students goes beyond constant repairs. Columbine lacks some facilities that other Jeffco high schools have. As a result, they can’t offer the same educational and extra-curricular programming that other high schools offer their students, Christy explained.

For example, Columbine is one of just five Jeffco high schools without an auxiliary gym. As a result, they are less able to host youth teams or other extracurricular sports. These disparities result in inequities throughout Jeffco.

If voters approve the bond package, Columbine would get an auxiliary gym and an addition. Columbine would also receive major renovations to solve the problems with raw sewage and other ongoing repair issues.

Tina Gurdikian

Tina Gurdikian has been a Jeffco resident since 2008, and is the parent of two Jeffco Schools students. She has a BS in Environmental Analysis and Planning with a minor in Biology. In her not-so-spare time, she enjoys fostering dogs, scuba diving, backpacking, hiking, biking, and kayaking with her family. Please visit our "About Us" page to learn more about Tina and our other writers.

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