RFSD News: Roaring Fork teacher housing proving its worth | PostIndependent.com

RFSD News: Roaring Fork teacher housing proving its worth

Jeff Gatlin
Jeff Gatlin

Through the 2013 strategic visioning process, the Roaring Fork Schools identified retaining and recruiting staff as an important strategic priority. When the district examined the obstacles that were preventing progress on this priority, it quickly became clear that affordable housing played a key role in both keeping and attracting staff to the Roaring Fork Schools.

So, in an unprecedented move, the Roaring Fork Schools included staff housing in the 2015 bond program. Taxpayers expressed their support of our teachers and schools by voting in support of the bond, including the goal of obtaining a minimum of 45 housing units in Glenwood Springs, Carbondale and Basalt for staff rental housing.

It has been almost a year since staff moved into the first 29 rental units completed in Basalt and Glenwood Springs. In that short amount of time, we have already heard from several of these staff members that their improved housing situation has allowed them to stay and teach in our district.

Given these early results, we were especially excited to complete another 20 rental units in July at our Third Street location in Carbondale, with another 12 units later this fall at our Cardiff Mesa location in Glenwood Springs.

61 units will be occupied by Roaring Fork staff by the end of this fall, surpassing the goal we set three years ago by over 30 percent.

When it is all said and done, 61 units will be occupied by Roaring Fork staff by the end of this fall, surpassing the goal we set three years ago by more than 30 percent. Being able to provide affordable staff housing has already had a noticeable effect on our staff and the district at large. Staff are able to live in the valley, pay affordable rents, and work toward ensuring they can stay in the valley after they complete their time in our housing program.

The success of the program is the result of many supportive groups and individuals — taxpayers, board members, district leaders and the many staff who have supported this process along the way. Specifically, a committee of dedicated staff helped create and draft the guidelines, which outline the rules, regulations and rental amounts that govern the program.

Throughout the development process, the group maintained a focus on equity, need and fairness while holding a commitment to keeping rents affordable for all staff. While we have already learned that not every situation can be addressed by a set of guidelines, the group’s thoughtfulness in developing the guidelines has been evident and proven to be a solid foundation for the program.

As we continue to adapt this new program to best meet the needs of staff and the district, we are starting to brainstorm what comes next. In other words, now that we’ve created affordable staff rental opportunities, we are exploring how we can support home ownership for our staff.

We will spend the first full year of rental occupancy analyzing the income generated through this program and exploring how we can best leverage these funds to help staff own homes in the valley. While we don’t have ultimate clarity on what this will look like, I am excited to begin working with our staff committee to examine opportunities.

In the meantime, we are thrilled to be part of the Basalt Vista partnership in Basalt, which will provide homeownership opportunities behind Basalt High School. This project is the result of a partnership with Habitat for Humanity, Pitkin County, the town of Basalt and the Roaring Fork Schools. This program will offer ownership options to our staff while our rental program is getting off the ground, providing a tremendous boost to the overall program we are developing.

We are so fortunate to live in an area where our communities value the individuals working so hard in our schools, day in and day out, to ensure that every student develops the enduring knowledge, skills and character to thrive in a changing world.

The staff housing program plays a critical part in making sure we can retain and recruit staff to carry out this important mission.

Jeff Gatlin is chief operating officer for the Roaring Fork School District Re-1.

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