Employee housing considered for district teachers

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District board trustees and schools administrators are currently discussing the possibility of creating teacher housing on district campuses. If the plan is approved, Mills High School will be the first school in the district to offer housing to its employees.

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First, the district needs to find money to finance construction. The likely course of action is to sell the site of former Crestmoor High School in San Bruno, presently occupied by Peninsula High School, a continuation school. Yet the sale of the Crestmoor site requires Peninsula High School to be moved to an alternate location. The decision for the new location has yet to be made.

The motivation for employee housing stems from the combination of rising housing costs in the Bay Area and an increasing national shortage of teachers. San Francisco is infamous for its sizeable rent prices; surrounding land is nearly as exorbitantly expensive.

“The challenges of living in San Francisco, or on the Peninsula, continue to escalate,”  Principal Paul Belzer said.

Simultaneously, the rate at which individuals earn teaching credentials is steadily declining. If both of these trends continue, it is likely that fewer teachers will apply for jobs in the San Mateo district. A dried-up pool of qualified candidates would impact the quality of education that these schools offer.

The district believes employee housing to be the solution to this conundrum.

“Our goal would be to make [the price of employee housing] to be about half of market value,” Superintendent Kevin Skelly said.

Teachers lacking financial stability but good merit would rent housing units to save money for later investments in the real estate market. They would be invited to inhabit the units for up to seven years, although Skelly specified that this number is not set in stone.

The housing units themselves, approximately 140 of them with one to three bedrooms each, would be built over the Mills tennis courts and soccer and softball field. Prior to the housing construction, the Mills campus would gain seven new tennis courts, a stadium field, and a multi-sport field.

Some students object to the sheer amount of construction projects required to make employee housing a reality. Last year, the Mills leadership class and student newspaper created an online petition to prevent the approval needed for work to begin. One of their chief concerns was that the campus had recently undergone renovation in order to accommodate Design Tech, a district charter school which has since moved to the campus of technology corporation Oracle. During that renovation period, students were frustrated with having to practice sports at Capuchino High School in San Bruno and other facilities. The petition-makers made it clear they do not want a repeat of that situation.

Although the question over employee housing has more relevance in the Mills community, it is something to take into consideration for the future of BHS.

“In twenty years from now, our teaching staff will be new to the area and may not have the same capacity to get into the real estate market,” Belzer said.

The possibility of employee housing at Mills is far from reaching fruition. It will be at least two or three years until the dream of the school district is even remotely realized.

“It’s a ways away,” Skelly said.  

Posted on February 12, 2018 .