Summit school board dips its toe into housing conversation
District officials discuss survey of teachers to assess need
At the Thursday, Aug. 26, Summit School District Board of Education meeting, the board and district leadership looked at its land-use master plan to see whether the district had the capacity to help provide housing for teachers in the county.
Superintendent Roy Crawford said the district is a stakeholder in the area’s housing issues because it owns a lot of property and has workforce problems of its own.
District Chief Financial Officer Kara Drake said there are about 13.93 acres available for potential development south of the high school as well as additional land further south and north of the high school that would be difficult to develop because it is located on wetlands.
The land has been studied for its potential for housing or a community field house. The study was conducted in partnership with the county to see if it was feasible to build housing on the land and how many units could fit. In the study, Drake said the county proposed it could develop the land and take over the housing units through a land trade, providing some units on the property to the school for district employees.
The district went through a land exchange with the town of Breckenridge, giving up 8.7 acres north of Upper Blue Elementary for a new 10-acre parcel on the McCain property, which is just north of Coyne Valley Road. As part of this exchange, the district received two employee housing units in the Blue 52 development, which are used to help first-year employees transition into the area.
These deed-restricted, two-bedroom, two-bath townhomes are usually assigned to new employees based on a lottery, but Drake said only one person entered the lottery this year. The district did a second lottery after it did more hiring and got two applicants.
Drake said the units have been filled every year the school has owned them.
“I find it fascinating that all we hear about in the news is our housing crisis, and yet we saw this decrease in interest in these two units,” board member Tracey Carisch said. “What is the actual impact of this housing crisis on our teachers? … I want to understand, do we actually have a housing crisis in education?”
Board President Kate Hudnut said asking teachers specifics about their hurdles, whether it be housing or child care, could provide more insight.
Crawford also highlighted a difference in housing difficulties for teachers who came years ago and teachers who are coming now. He said a survey looking at teachers’ needs relative to their longevity with the district could provide useful information.
“They’re living in a really different world,” Crawford said. “Even though the teachers who are coming now have found housing, they can’t buy it. They can’t enter the market.”
Carisch said she envisions the school board entering a new era where it is becoming more engaged with community issues.
“How do we help address some of these issues and have a seat not just as a listener but as a fully engaged partner in it?” Carisch asked. “How do we help truly partner in housing in a meaningful way that’s still in alignment with our goals for our students’ academics?”
The board generally agreed to come back to the idea of creating a group that can connect with local municipalities so the board is in the loop on community needs. The board plans to review all of its committees in September and will bring the housing conversation back up at that time.
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