Summit School District Superintendent eyes progress on housing effort for teachers, staff

Officials to continue discussing ideas to bring subsidized housing to employees, including building new units

The Summit School District Administration Building in Frisco is pictured Nov. 12, 2020.
Liz Copan/Summit Daily News archive

The Summit School District could become one of several districts in Colorado’s High Country to build its own housing for teachers and staff, so long as its plan remains on track. 

During an Aug. 17 Summit School District Board of Education meeting, Superintendent Tony Byrd listed a district housing project as a key goal for the new school year. 

Officials have previously discussed the framework for a housing plan during a March 23 meeting, in which board members framed housing as a direct barrier to hiring and retaining staff. Currently, officials are considering building housing on four different district-owned parcels though Byrd said that also requires more conversation around future growth. 

“Any time we think about land, or facilities or housing, we have to think about: ‘Well if we build housing there do we have enough space left to build a school one day or whatever else might come up,'” he said. 

Implementing the first stages of a multi-year housing plan is a top priority for the 2023-24 school year, Byrd said, especially as issues like land-use and funding will dictate how and when a project comes to fruition. 

The issue of housing continues to prompt urgency in the district as it finds itself competing to hire and retain staff in a region stricken with a high cost of living. A 2021 Keystone Policy Center study that was cited earlier this year in the district’s housing proposal states that just 6% of the county’s housing stock is affordable to teachers. 

Teacher salaries were increased for this school year as part of a $53.8 million budget. The budget boosted starting salaries from $50,000 to $52,200, though veteran teachers will see the largest increases, with some eligible to make up to just over $112,000. 

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But housing can still prove elusive even for earners of six-figure salaries, a demographic that local officials have called “the missing middle.” 

District officials may look to past housing successes of their regional peers. For example, the Roaring Fork School District, which covers Glenwood Springs, Carbondale and Basalt, partnered with Habitat for Humanity to secure 14 for-sale units for district staff. It then used $20 million from a bond (a voter-approved fund borrowing mechanism for capital projects) to build 66 rental units for staff ranging in price from $900 to $1,400 per month. 

“I need to make sure we keep moving on our decisions related to land, building up our bond in a year and related to housing,” Byrd told board members. 

While building housing is one option, officials said they’re open to exploring a range of ideas. 

“You can find housing solutions, potentially that don’t involve our land,” said board member Chris Guarino, adding that collaborations with local municipalities to use town-owned land could be one possibility.

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