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Laura Austin Photo / James Monroe Middle School

James Monroe Middle School sewer system fails

Sierra Sands Unified School District– James Monroe Middle School, a proud member of the Sierra Sands Unified

School District (SSUSD), is committed to providing a safe and conducive learning environment for our students, staff, and community. Unfortunately, we are facing an unexpected challenge due to a sewer system failure on our campus. The sewer system issue has led to the closure of staff restrooms, impacting both employees and visitors. In response to this situation, portable toilets have been installed to ensure basic facilities are available during this period.

On 5/1/2024, the sewer line to the administrative offices of James Monroe Middle School backed up, resulting in the closing of staff restrooms in that building. District staff have been unable to determine the cause of the failure in a non-destructive manner and are not able to repair the sewer until a large portion of the front walkway is trenched.

Some of our school facilities, such as James Monroe Middle School, are over 70 years old; they are aging and in urgent need of repairs. SSUSD continues to work hard to address these essential repairs and upgrade needs for school roofs, windows, bathrooms, plumbing, wiring, and heating and cooling systems to provide a safe, healthy learning environment for all students.

Immediate Action Taken:

Our maintenance team has been working diligently to assess the extent of the sewer system failure. We are working to evaluate the situation and make necessary repairs. As a temporary measure, portable toilets have been strategically placed on campus to minimize inconvenience.

Principal Amy Self stated, “While we know the solution is temporary, many staff members are uncomfortable with the idea of using outhouses on campus. It’s disheartening to come to terms with the fact that this is the best option available. This only amplifies our concerns about the state of our school and its aging facilities.”

After careful consideration, it has been determined that approximately 80 feet of the front walkway of the school will need to be trenched to address the sewer system issue effectively.

This trenching work will commence after the school year ends on May 30, 2024. We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause and appreciate your understanding as we prioritize student safety and well-being.

Pam Smith, Assistant Superintendent of Business and Support Services, shared “We are grateful for our forward-thinking board, who had the foresight to initiate the plan to reorganize our students and mitigate the risk to our staff and students of critical infrastructure failures at the Monroe site.”

The Sierra Sands Unified School District is currently engaging in community outreach related to facilities priorities. Please Join the Conversation by participating in our online survey today at

We encourage parents, guardians, and community members to stay informed about updates related to this situation. If you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to reach out to our school office at (760) 499-1830.

James Monroe Middle School remains committed to transparency, safety, and collaboration. We appreciate the patience and cooperation of our school community as we work to resolve this issue promptly.

Thank you for your continued support.

Earlier this academic year, on both September 12 and January 31, the board of education heard presentations on the Facilities Master Plan, which confirmed the closing of Monroe effective June 2025 for the following reasons:

● The facility, constructed in 1950, is failing and has not been modernized for decades.

● There are several end-of-life infrastructure components including the electrical service and distribution, lighting, parking lots, sanitary sewer, storm sewer, and water distribution system.

● There is no contingency for a critical infrastructure failure and no funding source for developing one.

● This school is not eligible for a Department of Defense construction grant as the school is not on federal land.