From Teacher Shortages To Hot Springs: Our 10 Most Read News Stories Of 2015

December 30, 2015
Photo: Conundrum Hot Springs
The Conundrum Hot Springs near Aspen offer a rewarding view, but you'll need to walk 8.5 miles uphill to get there. 

As the year draws to a close, CPR News is taking a look back at our most-read articles from 2015. Among the high profile events like the Gold King Mine Spill, many readers also found time for education and environmental stories. And hot springs. You loved our hot springs story. Haven't read them all? Now's a great time to catch up. 

10: How EPA Triggered A Million-Gallon Mine Waste Spill Near Silverton

Photo: Cement Creek water flows toward Animas River, away from Gold King Mine (AP Photo)
Water flows down Cement Creek just below the site of the blowout at the Gold King mine which triggered a major spill of toxic wastewater, outside Silverton, Colo., Thursday, Aug. 13, 2015. 

The images of bright orange waterways seared into the consciousness of Americans this year, even inspiring a nod from a New Yorker cartoonist. In quick fashion, energy and environmental reporter Grace Hood delivered what was known about the spill's cause:

"At the Gold King Mine, EPA officials were using heavy equipment for their site investigation to learn the extent of contamination. Not only was there was more mine wastewater than expected, but the water was held back by a dam of soils as opposed to rocks. While the EPA was digging around, water gushed out and started to drain down," she wrote. Read the story here.

9: Colorado Teacher Shortage Puts Rural Schools On The Brink Of Crisis 

Photo: Near Genoa, Rural Teacher Shortage (STAFF)
A road sign near Genoa. Rural school superintendents say low pay, isolation, and fewer teacher candidates make it hard to attract teachers.

Only an hour away from Denver, Genoa-Hugo Elementary school needed just one more teacher last year. Unfortunately for the school, there were zero applicants. Education reporter Jenny Brundin found a number of factors at play, including our political climate:

“In the last five to six years, we’ve had several mandates that were truly unfunded, went through a recession, put more on people’s plates and didn’t take anything off," said Don Anderson, director of the East Central Board of Cooperative Educational Services. "And so that political landscape has caused people to ask, 'Do I really want to be a teacher?'" Read the story here.

8: A Denver High School, Plagued By Racial Divides, Tries To Reinvent Itself

Photo: George Washington High School collage (Staff)
George Washington High School is on Denver's east side. Top right: Student Hezekiah Hall. Middle right: Student Cheyenne Quinones. Bottom right: Student Ellie Mackintosh.

Last year, the school lunchroom was a good indicator for how things were going at George Washington High School. On one side, the mostly-white International Baccalaureate students. On the other side, students in traditionally paced courses, mostly African-American and Hispanic. Changing that divide was tough, remembered parent Todd Mackintosh. 

“You could have cut the air with a knife at the beginning," he said. Read the story here.

7: 'Hateful Eight' Film Crew Spends More Than $140K At Telluride Tire Shop

Photo: Telluride Tire for web.
Telluride Tire in Telluride, Colo.

What's cooler than Quentin Tarentino hanging out with Samuel L. Jackson in Telluride? Maybe this post on how the production spent over $140,000 at a local tire shop. 

Owner Stuart Armstrong said business went up about 25 percent this year, resulting in by far his best January and February since opening the shop in 1997. Read the story here.

6: The Winter Park Ski Train Reboot Is Shifting Into Higher Gear

Photo: Vintage Ski Train 3

Imagine this: You land at Denver International Airport, take the new East Rail Commuter Line to Union Station, board the Ski Train and arrive right at the slopes of Winter Park all in about three hours. 

Or maybe you don't need to imagine the ski train part, because you've been in Colorado since before 2009 and used the now-defunct service. 

Either way, the possible reboot has got people across the state talking. Read the story here.

5: Legal Marijuana: Where The 2016 Presidential Candidates Stand

Photo: Marijuana plant July 2015
A marijuana plant grows at the Colorado Harvest Company in Denver, Colo. on Wednesday, July 8, 2015.

Marijuana's sort of having a moment.

In 2016, voters in as many as 10 states will consider whether to join Colorado and three others in legalizing recreational weed. Then presidential candidate Rand Paul came to Colorado and got on the bandwagon. So the civic-minded and pot proponents alike enjoyed this article detailing how future presidents might deal with the issue. Read the story here.

4: NASA Images Show How Fire, Insects And Water Have Changed Colorado

Whether the change took a few years or almost a hundred, the images from NASA are striking. See ore of the images here.

3: After Decades In Prison, First Day Outside A Shock For Colorado Parolee

Kevin Monteiro close-up #2
Kevin Monteiro was released from the Sterling Correctional Facility in northeast Colorado in June 2014. He had been in prison since the 1980s. 

“I had a hundred dollars in my pocket and a box of books," said Kevin Monteiro says about his first day out of prison. "No family, nobody.”

In a five-part series, Colorado Matters reporter Andrea Dukakis explored how parolees are expected to navigate life outside of prison. But in this first installment, the weight of Monteiro's struggles were felt acutely by readers. Read Montiero's story here.

2: How Much Must A Family Earn To Survive In Your Part Of Colorado?

A single parent with two children cannot survive on minimum wage alone in any county in the state. That's the finding from a self-sufficiency index from the University of Washington.

"There doesn’t seem to be an end in sight," says University of Washington professor Diana Pearce who developed the self sufficiency scale and wrote the report "At some point, something’s just got to give. Families just can't afford [it]." Read the story here.

1: Six 'Wild' Colorado Hot Springs To Soak Up... If You're Willing To Hike

Who can resist the promise of secret hot springs in Colorado? Few of you, if this far-and-away most popular story is any indication. Read the full list here.